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India reaches out, wants to upgrade ties with North Korea

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2.India reaches out, wants to upgrade ties with North Korea

In a quiet but extremely significant diplomatic move, India signalled upgraded ties with North Korea, by sending Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju to participate in an event marking the North Korean national Independence Day in New Delhi, The Hindu has learnt.

India’s bilateral ties with North Korea have been frosty for several decades mainly due to the latter’s close strategic ties with Pakistan.

But last April, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un made a tentative beginning by sending his Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong to Delhi.

Speaking to The Hindu , Mr. Rijiju, nominated by the Ministry of External Affairs to represent the Indian government in the official event, said the bilateral ties were “going to change.” Mr. Rijiju posted a few photographs and a brief note on the event on his Facebook page.

“North Korea is an independent country and a member of the United Nations and we should have good bilateral trade ties,” Mr. Rijiju said.

Vyjayanti Raghavan, an expert on Korean Affairs at Jawaharlal Nehru University, says Mr. Rijiju has become the first Minister from the Indian side ever to address a bilateral event featuring the North Korean flag on the national Independence Day. “It’s a symbolic move and shows that India will accord higher diplomatic courtesies to Pyongyang,” she said.

The former Foreign Secretary, Maharaj Krishna Rasgotra, also confirmed that India discouraged ministerial interaction with North Korea traditionally as a punishment for North’s ties with Pakistan. But by sending Mr. Rijiju to the North Korean embassy, India had set a new practice.

The North Korean event was also attended by CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who in July 2013, led a three-member parliamentary delegation to Pyongyang.

Mr. Yechury says that Mr. Rijiju’s presence was a major and significant diplomatic step. “Though the Government of India showed interest in normalising ties with North Korea earlier during the UPA, I was sceptical of any follow up initiatives under the Modi government. But Mr. Rijiju convinced me that the ties between Delhi and Pyongyang are going to get better. Given the China factor and Mr. Rijiju’s origin in Arunachal Pradesh, it was a good decision to send him as the Minister for the event,” Mr. Yechury told The Hindu.

Mr. Rijiju clarified that his presence at the event was not a hasty decision but was part of a well thought out diplomatic move.

“We have been discussing inside the government ways and means of upgrading bilateral ties with North Korea ever since the North Korean Foreign Minister visited Delhi last April. We feel that there should not be the usual old hurdles and suspicion in bilateral ties as North Korea is an independent country and also a member of the United Nations. A relationship based on greater trade and commerce between two sides is the way ahead.”

Mr. Yechury says that the rethink is part of a political consensus borne out of the long term interest of India. The official support to Mr. Rijiju’s participation was evident to the notable Indian guests at the event who were helped by the MEA. While Mr. Rijiju is talking of trade and commerce, the real reasons for better bilateral ties, says Yechury, lie under the surface of North Korea.

North Korea is estimated to have one of the largest global deposits of minerals and rare earth metals necessary for India’s IT industry and electronic majors.

Hamdullah Saeed of the Congress, ex-MP from Lakshadweep, who visited Pyongyang along with Mr. Yechury in 2013, said that past actions of Pyongyang need to be seen in the perspective of India’s growing need for rare metals in the global market which might otherwise go to other interested parties. Already, there are early signs emanating from western capitals on reorienting ties with Pyongyang.

Diplomats are not ruling out the possibility that a dramatic change in bilateral ties like what the U.S. achieved with Iran and Cuba could possibly also occur in case of North Korea. “There is a rush for strategic resources in the countries like North Korea that were blockaded and sanctioned away from global economy. India should be an early bird in North Korea just in case North Korean economic ties with the world undergo change in near future,” Mr. Saeed said.

Despite the tension between the North and South Koreas which often threaten each other with annihilation, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has announced that it will start a service targeting North Korea in near future. Dr. Raghavan says that the BBC’s move shows that the world is impatient to reach out to North Korea.

A major factor that inhibited India’s steps towards the North Korean market in the past was the sensitivity of South Korea towards such a move. This time, India balanced it out by sending Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu to Seoul to seek greater South Korean collaboration on high speed rail network. Mr. Yechury says political risk of getting friendly with North Korea has been calculated for sometime now: “the parliamentary delegation of 2011 was sent to Pyongyang after considering the South Korean sentiments.”

North Korea is estimated to have one of the largest global deposits of minerals and rare earth metals necessary for India’s IT industry and electronic majors.

3.Pentagon cell to push India trade ties

In a clear signal of India’s importance, both as a major buyer and potential collaborator in the defence sector, the Pentagon has established its first-ever country special cell to speed up defence ties between India and the United States.

The India Rapid Reaction Cell (IRRC), operational for a few months now, is part of the efforts to pursue all aspects of the India-U.S. Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), officials here said.

The India Rapid Reaction Cell is meant to ramp up the tempo of all ongoing initiatives

4.G4 leaders may meet to push for U.N. reforms

Leaders of Japan, Germany, Brazil and India — the G4 that wants expansion of the U.N. Security Council and permanent seats for themselves — are exploring the possibility of a summit in New York in the last week of September, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA).

In 2013 and 2014, G4 Foreign Ministers met on the UNGA sidelines and called for urgent reforms, but efforts are on to have a summit this year, sources said.

5.Modi, Ranil discuss U.N. rights report

Sri Lanka plans to go ahead with the promise of devolution of power to Tamil-majority areas, a move guaranteed under its constitution but not implemented so far, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.

The reconciliation process with the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka figured prominently in the talks between the two leaders, coming a day before the U.N. Human Rights Council presents what is expected to be a damning report on Sri Lanka’s actions during the war and after. “We are looking at how power-sharing takes place within the constitution,” Mr. Wickremesinghe told the media at a joint press appearance.

“I am confident that with the wisdom and will of the leadership in Sri Lanka and the support of the people, Sri Lanka will achieve genuine reconciliation and development, so that all Sri Lankans, including the Sri Lankan Tamil community, can live a life of equality, justice, peace and dignity in a united Sri Lanka,” Prime Minister Modi said in his statement after the talks. At a function later in the day Prime Minister Wickremesinghe told The Hindu that he and Mr. Modi had discussed the UNHRC report and that both were “very relaxed” about its findings.

Indictment expected

The report, to be presented by the Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in Geneva on Wednesday, has already been shared with the Sri Lankan government. While it is expected to contain an indictment of the previous regime of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa for “war crimes” during the final assault on the LTTE in 2009, it will be closely watched for its observations on the ongoing reconciliation process by the new government and what kind of enquiry it recommends.

Mr. Sirisena, who was a senior member of Mr. Rajapakse's cabinet at the time of the war, may also face charges in the report. While many Tamil parties, including the ruling TNA, have demanded an international war crimes tribunal to investigate the alleged atrocities, the Sri Lankan government has offered alternatives of domestic inquiries and the setting up of a South Africa-model “Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-recurrence”. Mr. Wickremesinghe, who is on his first visit abroad since winning parliamentary elections, also discussed bilateral economic ties with Mr. Modi.

6.Time for G4 leaders to assert themselves

The U.N.’s Inter-Governmental Negotiations (IGN) that have been under way since 2008 finalised over the weekend a negotiating text for U.N. reforms, qualitatively changing the nature of the debate, though concrete action on it is unlikely to be immediate. A U.N. resolution on Monday also called for “equitable representation on, and increase in the membership of, the Security Council.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff are going to be in New York in the last week of September. Though scheduling a meeting of the G-4 leaders may not be easy, diplomatic sources from a foreign country said, the time would be approp-riate for these countries to pull their weight together as it comes closely after the IGN draft. “We are working on it,” he said.

There are many opponents to the expansion of the UNSC, but the most vociferous of them all on Monday were China and Pakistan.

The G4 took shape in 2004 when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, along with German Foreign Minister Joska Fischer, issued a joint statement, kicking off their campaign for U.N. reforms, including more representation for developing countries, both in the permanent and non-permanent categories, in the UNSC which has 15 members.

The September 2014 India-U.S. joint statement said the “President reaffirmed his support for a reformed U.N. Security Council with India as a permanent member”, but subsequent suggestions from the U.S. for a “consensus approach,” was seen by India as a reading down of that position. India and other G4 members hope that, with the negotiations now moving to a text-based one, there will be more clarity on the respective positions of countries.

There are many opponents to UNSC expansion, most vociferous were China and Pakistan

7.Centre to allow foreign experts to teach in India

Remuneration, visa and schedule issues sorted out

The Centre is all set to roll out its new plan — the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) — that will allow internationally renowned experts to undertake short teaching stints in Indian universities and higher education institutes.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development which is piloting the programme is keen to get it going early. The programme will see scientists and entrepreneurs apart from academicians offer courses, lectures and workshops in India.

Though a date for flagging off the programme is yet to be decided, there are indications that the unveiling could be on November 11 to coincide with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s birthday, marked as National Education Day.

According to a source in the government, the programme was being held up over a number of issues, including remuneration, difficulty in grant of visa and the schedules for teaching, all of which have now been sorted out. The Centre has now decided to offer $8,000 for one credit course of 12 to 14 hours and $12,000 for two credit courses of 20-28 hours, in addition to local hospitality which will be borne by the host institute.

Courses by foreign experts jointly with one faculty from the host institute can be offered during summer or winter vacations and the experts will also be allowed to lecture in institutes other than their host.

The decks have also been cleared to allow central universities, IITs and NITs to hire adjunct faculty from abroad without having to pay the threshold limit of $25,000.

Unable to afford the payment of this threshold amount to visiting faculty, heads of various universities had approached President Pranab Mukherjee who is the Visitor to 114 central institutions with a request to direct the Ministry of Home Affairs to waive the precondition.

“Following the President’s intervention the guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs regulating the employment visa for visit to India have now been relaxed for the central universities, IITs, NITs and other centrally funded institutions,” said a source.

Though a date for flagging off the programme is yet to be decided, there are indications that the unveiling could be on November 11

8.Biden to honour Bhartia, Nooyi as India season kicks off in U.S.

The U.S. capital was in the grip of India fever this week with a sense of growing anticipation around interactions between senior administration officials from both nations during the September 21 Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (SC&D), and also a high-profile event hosted by the U.S. India Business Council (USIBC) at which Vice-President Joe Biden will honour top women CEOs Shobhana Bhartia and Indra Nooyi.

The council announced on Tuesday that along with Mr. Biden, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry; Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj; and high-ranking officials from both governments, and captains of industry from both countries, will address the USIBC on the occasion of its 40th anniversary and on the same day would kick off the first SC&D.

The council added that as part of its Anniversary Leadership Summit, it would honour CEO and chairman of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi and chairperson and Editorial Director of the Hindustan Times Group, Shobhana Bhartia, “for their commitment towards building a more inclusive global economy”.

Other senior officials who will join the government-to-government dialogue now redefined to include the “commercial” component of the SC&D include Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister of State for Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal, and U.S. Secretary of State for Commerce Penny Pritzker.

Ms. Sitharaman and Ms. Pritzker will spell out details on the prospects for rapid progress in trade and investment cooperation, at an event hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace next Monday on “U.S.-India economic ties: ready for takeoff?”

The events will set the scene for the September 23 touch-down on U.S. soil by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose second visit to this country in one year will see him meet President Barack Obama in New York and address an 18,000-strong diaspora reception in Silicon Valley, both events aimed at sustaining momentum in bilateral economic and technology cooperation.

9.Anti-tank guided missile AMOGHA-1 test-fired

Amogha-1, an indigenously-developed second generation, Anti-Tank Guided Missile having a range of 2.8 km, was successfully test-fired at Babina Army Range, Madhya Pradesh recently.

This is the first-ever design and developmental effort in respect of missiles by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), Hyderabad, according to a BDL press release here on Tuesday.

Two missiles were fired on September 10 and both have hit the target placed at 2.6 km and 2.8 km respectively. Both the flights were without any deviation from the designed path profile and met all design parameters.

10.British Indian on Man Booker Prize shortlist

A British author of Indian descent is one of six novelists shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize, 2015.

The Year of the Runaways is Sunjeev Sahota’s second novel, and centres around the lives of three Indian men — one a Dalit — and a woman, all migrants from India.

The three men are thrown together in a house for migrants in Sheffield, while the woman, a ‘visa-wife’ lives nearby. The novel shines a penetrating light on immigration through the lives of the characters before and after they came to Britain.

Promising debut

The 34-year old Mr. Sahota, whose name figured in Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2013, has received glowing reviews for the book.

His first book Ours are the Streets is about the journey of a young British Pakistani from ordinary teenager to terrorist, and was written after the July 7, 2005 bombings on the London underground.

The winner of the £50,000 prize will be announced on October 13.

11.Pentagon cell to push India trade ties[VVIP]

In an interview to PTI in Washington DC, Keith Webster, who heads the IRRC, said: “The purpose of the India Rapid Reaction Cell is to work all the initiatives that we have ongoing under (India-U.S.) DTTI (Defence Trade and Technology Initiative) — both the initiatives that for example came out of the joint statement between the (U.S.) President and the (Indian) Prime Minister in January (in New Delhi) — to move quickly and timely and be thorough, which in my opinion requires dedicated support to ramp up the operational tempo.”

Mr. Webster is the Director, International Cooperation Office of the Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

“We are embarking on some new initiatives and the operational tempo is not declining at all,” he said.

Established in January 2015 to focus exclusively on advancing the DTTI, IRRC is the only country-specific cell of its kind in the Pentagon.

The cell looks at ways to transform bilateral defence relationship without any bureaucratic obstacles, move away from the traditional buyer-seller dynamic to a more collaborative approach, explore new areas of technological collaboration and expand the U.S.-India business ties.

According to PTI, currently seven persons work on the cell, representing various wings of the U.S. Department of Defence. Given the new thrust on India-U.S. defence relationship under the U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, PTI said more officials have expressed keen interest in working at the Pentagon’s India cell for advancing DTTI.

DTTI is an undertaking drawn up by Mr. Carter, when he was Deputy Secretary of Defence, on the directions of his predecessor Leon Panetta in 2012.

A senior Indian official said the DTTI enjoys full backing from both sides and this was articulated by both President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2015, who had directed the DTTI to focus on pursuing six co-development pathfinder efforts.

He pointed out that a joint U.S.-India DTTI Interagency Task Force also regularly reviews the entire progress of the India-U.S. defence ties.

Over the next few months, India and the U.S. are set to hold a series of high-level exchanges in the defence sector, including a visit to the U.S. by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Officials said defence and strategic relationship would be a key topic of discussion when Mr. Obama meets Mr. Modi on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly in New York later this month.

Mr. Webster said the cell that he heads has been instrumental in accelerating the DTTI projects.

12.Migrant count goes up from 2,80,000 to over 5,00,000

Over half a million migrants have been counted on the European Union's border so far this year, up from 2,80,000 in 2014, the bloc’s Frontex external border agency said on Tuesday.

“More than 5,00,000 migrants were detected at EU borders in the first eight months of this year after a fifth consecutive monthly record was registered in August when 1,56,000 crossed the EU borders,” a Frontex statement said, adding “there were 280,000 detections” at EU borders last year.

22 refugees drown

At least 22 Greece-bound asylum-seekers drowned on Tuesday when their boat sank off Turkey, officials said, as police blocked hundreds of others seeking to find an alternative route to Europe by land. Eleven women and four children were among the victims of the latest migrant shipwreck in the Aegean Sea, where three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi drowned two weeks ago, the Dogan news agency said.

Television footage showed a crowded Turkish coastguard ship carrying rescued people to the shore. No one was immediately available for comment at the coastguard.

Dogan said the group had been travelling to Kos in a 66-foot wooden boat.

A further 249 passengers were rescued from the wooden boat which set off from the southwestern Turkish resort town of Datca for the nearby Greek island of Kos, the Turkish coast guard said. — Agencies

13.‘Can’t defeat IS without Assad’

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday strongly defended Moscow’s military assistance to the Syrian government, saying it’s impossible to defeat the Islamic State group without cooperating with Damascus.

Putin’s statement comes amid the signs of an ongoing Russian military build-up in Syria, which the U.S. says signals Moscow’s intention to set up an air base there.

President Putin urged other nations to follow Russia’s example and offer military support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has made his third phone call to his Russian counterpart in the last 10 days, a State Department official said, seeking to clarify the intent of Moscow’s military buildup in Syria, and warning that continued support for President Assad will only prolong the Syrian conflict. — AP

14.Space for both India, China to invest in Cambodia: Ansari

Vice-President Hamid Ansari on Tuesday said that China will not be uneasy about India’s increasing involvement in Cambodia and Laos.

Mr. Ansari is in Cambodia to conduct delegation-level talks and sign Memorandums of Understanding in tourism and infrastructure building.

Chinese levels of investment are so different. They won’t be uneasy with our infrastructure investment. There is space for both,” Mr. Ansari told reporters on board Air India One en route to Cambodia.

The Vice-President’s four-day visit to Cambodia at the invitation of Prime Minister Hun Sen is an effort to shore up bilateral trade and investment which remains “much below potential.”

A growing economy’

“Cambodia is a growing economy that has maintained a growth rate of about seven per cent over the last several years. It is seeking greater socio-economic development. They are also a very young nation much like India and they are looking at opportunities for human resource development. We will assure them that they can count on India as a willing development partner,” Secretary East Anil Wadhwa told reporters on Monday.

“Our efforts in this direction have been towards undertaking infrastructure projects and capacity development programmes. Our trade and investment linkages have grown over the years, though they remain much below potential,” Mr. Wadhwa added.

China will not be uneasy about India’s increasing involvement in Cambodia and Laos’

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