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India has changed paradigm for addressing terrorism, says former High Commissioner to Pakistan

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New Delhi, May 2 (IANS) Calling the 2019 Pulwama terror attacks one of the “turning points” in India-Pakistan relationship, former High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria said on Thursday that India has now changed the paradigm of addressing terrorism, especially that originating from across the border.

“There has been a paradigm shift in the way India has dealt with terrorism and, in particular, terrorism from Pakistan. A case in point is the 2016 surgical strikes and the 2019 air strikes in Balakot, which changed the game and set up a credible deterrence against terrorism.

“It made it clear that India would be willing to go into hot pursuits of terrorists, either punishing them punitively or preemptively. That is what marks a shift in that policy,” Bisaria said during a panel discussion organised by Usanas Foundation, a geopolitical and security affairs organisation.

Having taken over as India’s High Commissioner to Pakistan in 2017, Bisaria was asked by Islamabad to leave the country in August 2019 after the abrogation of Article 370.

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His recent book, ‘Anger Management: The Troubled Diplomatic Relationship Between India and Pakistan’ not only provides a gripping account of events that unfolded during the period but also looks at the troubled relationship between the two neighbouring countries since 1947.

“I have argued (in the book) that, with the benefit of hindsight, India had possibly not used enough force in the 1980s, 90s, 2000s and certainly not in 2008 in the Mumbai terror attacks which deserved a very strong, hard-powered response.

“I have also mentioned that if India had used instruments like air strikes and the surgical strikes in 2008, we could have set up a better deterrence against the terrorism that followed,” Bisaria told Abhinav Pandya, the founder and CEO of Usanas Foundation.

The diplomat notes that the 2016 surgical strikes and 2019 Balakot air strikes were a demonstration of the fact that India was willing to enter into a hot pursuit of terrorists in their territory.

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“India does not any more conflate its Pakistan and Kashmir policy. A Pakistan policy of a tough posture on terrorism is an external policy. A Jammu and Kashmir policy, which at the moment is administering a healing touch and looking at development, is an internal policy. Pakistan has no locus standi in it. In the past, Pakistan wanted to promote a narrative that it is a stakeholder in J&K,” he said.

He accepts that there were some “positive developments” and a “positive mood” in terms of trying to engage with Pakistan and to assess how the country would be different from the Pakistan of the past once Imran Khan came to power in 2018.

“But when in 2019, on February 14, the Pulwama attack took place, that changed the complete equation. It confirmed to India that nothing had changed and that the Pakistani establishment was not willing to rein in terrorism”.

In his book, the seasoned diplomat argues that it is Pakistan’s own ‘identity crisis’ that is driving the military establishment towards hostility with India.

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“Pakistan was never a normal country, a normal neighbour defined as a country which perhaps does not have the army determining every little bit of policy and also not using the instrument of terrorism as state policy,” he said during the discussion.

However, Bisaria believes that the general public, especially the younger generation, looks at the fast-developing India very differently.

“The people look at India very differently from the way official Pakistan does. Sometimes the poison of the official narrative seeps into the popular narrative. But, by and large, you will see a lot of latent goodwill for India which is often visible now on social media, particularly amongst younger Pakistanis who are willing to look at India with fresh eyes, they are willing to benchmark themselves against India, be critical of their own country and admire some of the things that they see across,” he said.

–IANS

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Has Agnipath Scheme been relaunched? Govt says fake WhatsApp message doing rounds

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New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) The government on Sunday dismissed reports that the Agnipath Scheme has been relaunched, terming the social media message fake and clarifying no such decision to this effect was taken.

“A #fake WhatsApp message claims that the Agnipath Scheme has been re-launched as ‘Sainik Saman Scheme’ after review with several changes including duty period being extended to 7 years, 60 per cent permanent staff & increased income… GOI has taken no such decision,” the Press Information Bureau clarified on its X handle.

The fake message doing rounds contained a number of spelling mistakes, making it appear questionable.

The opposition, which has been critical of the Agnipath Scheme from the outset, aggressively questioned its credibility during the Lok Sabha polls campaign with the Congress ‘promising’ to do away with the scheme if voted to power at the Centre.

The Agnipath Scheme is a “tour of duty style” scheme that was implemented in September 2022 for the recruitment of soldiers below the rank of commissioned officers into the three services of the armed forces only for a four-year period.

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Personnel recruited under this system would be called Agniveers.

–IANS

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'No consultation': Kharge slams relocation of Mahatma, Dr Ambedkar statues in Parliament complex

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New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge on Sunday slammed the government for “arbitrarily” removing the statues of many great leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, from their prominent places in the Parliament House Complex and their relocation “to a separate corner”.

He termed the action, taken without any consultation, as violative of the “basic spirit of our democracy”.

“The statues of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar were situated in prominent locations and of other major leaders at appropriate locations after due deliberation and consideration. Each statue and its location across the Parliament House complex holds immense value and significance.”

“The statue of Mahatma Gandhi in a meditative posture located right in front of old Parliament Building held immense significance for India’s democratic polity. Members paid their respects at the statue of Mahatma Gandhi imbibing within themselves the spirit of Mahatma. It is at this place that Members often conducted peaceful and democratic protests, drawing strength from their presence,” he said in a statement.

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“The statue of D. Babasaheb Ambedkar too had been placed at a vantage point conveying the powerful message that Babasaheb is extolling the generations of parliamentarians to steadfastly hold on to values and principles enshrined in the Constitution of India. Incidentally, during my student days in mid-60s, I was in the forefront demanding for installation of statue of Babasaheb in the precincts of the Parliament House,” Kharge noted.

“Such concerted efforts eventually resulted in installing of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue at the place where it was hitherto before placed. The prior placement of Babasaheb statue also facilitated seamless movement of people paying their tributes to him on his birth and death anniversaries,” the Congress chief said, adding that “all this has now been brought to a naught in arbitrary and unilateral manner”.

He noted that there is a dedicated Committee called the “Committee on the Installation of Portraits and Statues of National Leaders and Parliamentarians in the Parliament House Complex,” which includes MPs from both Houses, but this had not been reconstituted since 2019.

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“Such decisions made without any proper discussion and deliberation with relevant stakeholders are against the rules and traditions of our Parliament,” he said.

The Congress President’s reaction came as Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, who is also the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, inaugurated the newly constructed Prerna Sthal at the Parliament House Complex, where all the statues of eminent Indian leaders and freedom fighters, previously dispersed across different places in the Parliament House complex, have been brought at one place.

–IANS

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EVM row: Silicon Valley's bigtech billionaires should not meddle in India's democracy, says Milind Deora

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Mumbai, June 16 (IANS) Amid raging controversy over Tesla and X boss Elon Musk’s “EVM can be hacked” claim, Shiv Sena MP and former Union Minister Milind Deora on Sunday said Silicon Valley’s bigtech billionaires should not meddle in India’s democracy.

In a post on X, Milind Deora said: “I’m a fan of @elonmusk as an innovator, but not of Silicon Valley’s #BigTech billionaires meddling in India’s democracy. Still, I asked #ChatGPT — co-founded & funded by Musk — about EVMs.

He also added ChatGPT’s take in this regard.

The ‘conversation’ reads like: “Do India’s EVMs use a SIM card?” Replying to Deora’s question, the chatbot answered: “No, India’s Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) do not use SIM cards. They are standalone devices that are not connected to any network, making them immune to remote hacking. The design and function ability of EVMs ensure that they operate independently without the need for any external connectivity, which enhances their security and reliability in conducting elections.”

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Deora’s observations on the matter came after opposition parties including Congress, Samajwadi Party, Shiv Sena UBT raised concerns over the reliability of EVMs.

–IANS

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J&K: Trial run begins on world's highest railway bridge in Chenab, rail services to begin soon (Ld)

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New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) In a major advancement towards its ‘dream project’, the Indian Railways on Sunday conducted the first train trial run from Sangaldan to Reasi, including crossing the Chenab bridge in Jammu and Kashmir — the highest railway bridge in the world.

The railway officials also conducted an inspection of the newly constructed line and also took stock of the railway stations between Sangaldan in Ramban district to Reasi in Jammu and Kashmir.

Situated at about 359 metres above sea level, the Chenab bridge not only makes for a breathtaking view but also shows how the engineering marvel continues to surprise the world.

Union Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw took to his social media handle and shared a video of the first trial run passing through the Chenab bridge.

“All construction works for the USBRL are nearly finished, with only Tunnel No 1 remaining partially incomplete,” he wrote.

The Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) will see trains plying on the 272 km stretch while also passing the picturesque Chenab bridge.

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The USBRL, expected to be completed by the end of the year, will provide all-weather connectivity to the valley.

The engineering marvel will not only cut down the geographical obstacles to the region but will also bring it at par with modern and multi-pronged infrastructure.

The 1.3 km Chenab rail bridge, located 35 meters higher than the Eiffel Tower in Paris, forms a crucial part of the project.

The Jammu and Kashmir Administration has already revealed its plans to develop the bridge as a ‘tourist spot’.

The ambitious project was expected to be completed by February this year, but it missed the deadline.

The Railways under Ashwini Vaishnaw’s stewardship has kept this project on a high focus and as reports suggest, it has also been listed in Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government’s first 100 days of work.

–IANS

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Act tough to save youth from drug menace, Punjab BJP chief tells CM

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Chandigarh, June 16 (IANS) Expressing shock and anguish over 14 deaths reported in Punjab in 14 days owing to drug abuse, Punjab BJP President Sunil Jakhar on Sunday urged Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to act tough to save Punjab’s youth from this menace.

“These tragic deaths have shaken the people and a Chief Minister, who every other day sells fake dreams of making a ‘Rangla Punjab’, must be forced to understand his duty towards the state,” Jakhar said in a statement.

“Punjab today needs an effective and urgent crackdown against those directly responsible for this heinous crime of killing our youngsters,” he said, adding the government has failed miserably to control drug menace with daily reports of drugs being available easily in villages and towns.

Jakhar reminded Bhagwant Mann of his own AAP MLAs publicly disclosing names of those under whose direct patronage drug trade is flourishing in the state and yet no action had been taken ever in the past two years.

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“What more information does the CM need to at least order a probe and bring those, however powerful, behind these deaths to book,” Jakhar asked.

–IANS

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