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H1N1 toll rises to 7 with 2 deaths in Pune, 1 in Chennai

Three more persons--two men in their 30s in Pune and a 4-year-old boy in Chennai---died of swine flu on Monday, taking the number of deaths caused by the virus in India to seven.

File photo of patients in Pune waiting at a local hospital to get tested for influenza A (H1N1).
File photo of patients in Pune waiting at a local hospital to get tested for influenza A (H1N1).
Three more persons--two men in their 30s in Pune and a four-year-old boy in Chennai---died of swine flu today, taking the number of deaths caused by the virus in the country so far to seven.

In Pune, an Ayurvedic doctor, identified as Babasahed Mane, 35 died this morning in the Sassoon Hospital.

Later tonight, a chemist, Sanjay Tilekar, also 35, succumbed to the virus at the same hospital.

With these, Pune, the city worst hit by the pandemic, now accounts for four of the seven deaths so far due to the virus in the country.

An official statement here said Mane was admitted to the Inlaks Budhrani Hospital in Pune on August 6 with a history of having fever, sore throat and body ache for the previous seven days. As his condition did not improve, he was shifted to the Sassoon Hospital the next day and was put on ventilator in the intensive care unit (ICU). His condition deteriorated and he passed away this morning, it said.

The Chennai boy, Sanjay, had been admitted to a local hospital in the Perungudi area on August 5 with complaints of fever and loose motions for the previous two days.

The next day his condition became critical due to multi-organ failure. On August 8, he was tested for H1N1 and was found to be positive. He was put on oseltamivir, but his condition worsened and he died this morning, the statement said. Officials said the boy was asthmatic and had been suffering from other problems, including kidney and liver-related complications. This was the first death due to the virus in Chennai.

A 14-year-old girl had died in Pune on August 3, the first patient to have succumbed to the virus in India.

A 42-year-old non-resident Indian on a visit home had died of the flu in Ahmedabad yesterday and a woman had succumbed to the virus in Mumbai on Saturday.

Meanwhile, as many as 95 fresh cases of H1N1 have been reported from different cities in India, including 47 from Pune alone and 22 from Mumbai and six in Panchgani, also in Maharashtra.

Fourteen cases were reported from Delhi and one each from Noida, Gurgaon, Ajmer and Mangalore.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases reported so far in India has risen to 959. As many as 563 of them have already been discharged from hospitals after treatment.

The statement said all the 47 cases in Pune were indigenous in nature while only one out of the 22 new cases in Mumbai had travelled recently to Austria. The six cases in Panchgani in Satara district are schoolmates of previously reported cases.

In Delhi, ten of the 14 cases were indigenous. Of the remaining four, two had travelled to the United States and two to Singapore. The case in Noida is a close contact of a previously reported positive case, while the latest case in Gurgaon has no travel history. In Ajmer, the new case is a person who had travelled recently to Dubai. In Mangalore, two of the three cases are indigenous in nature while one of them had travelled to the United Kingdom.

In Pune, five other cases are still admitted in Pune's Sassoon Hospital, of which the condition of two was said to be critical. A Central team is stationed in the city to assess the situation and institute appropriate public health measures.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had talked to Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad yesterday and urged him to step up the efforts to check the spread of the virus.

He also said that there was need to create better awareness about the virus and prevent the spread of misinformation.

He said the state governments should be asked to create more isolation wards in hospitals and train more doctors and paramedical staff to deal with the flu.

Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad held a review meeting with senior officials today, including Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar, following which he announced several measures to step up the efforts to tackle the virus.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had on June 11 declared the influenza A (H1N1) virus as a phase 6 pandemic.

According to the latest update from WHO, as on July 31, as many as 1,62,380 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza A (H1N1) were reported from 168 countries around the world, with a total of 1154 deaths

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Influenza A (H1N1) toll rises to 6 with deaths in Pune, Chennai

Two more persons---a 35-year-old Ayurvedic doctor in Pune and a 4-year-old boy in Chennai---died of swine flu on Monday, taking the number of deaths caused by the virus in India so far to 6.

File photo of patients in Pune waiting at a local hospital to get tested for influenza A (H1N1).
File photo of patients in Pune waiting at a local hospital to get tested for influenza A (H1N1).

Two more persons--a 35-year-old Ayurvedic doctor in Pune and a four-year-old boy in Chennai---died of swine flu today, taking the number of deaths caused by the virus in the country so far to six.

The doctor, identified as Babasaheb Mane, died this morning in the Sassoon Hospital in Pune, which has been the city worst-hit by the flu in the country. With this, the number of deaths in Pune has risen to three.  

An official statement here said the doctor was admitted to the Inlanks Budhrani Hospital in Pune on August 6 with a history of having fever, sore throat and body ache for the previous seven days. As his condition did not improve, he was shifted to the Sassoon Hospital the next day and was put on ventilator in the intensive care unit (ICU). His condition deteriorated and he passed away this morning, it said.

The Chennai boy had been admitted to a local hospital in the Perungudi area on August 5 with complaints of fever and loose motions for the previous two days.

The next day his condition became critical due to multi-organ failure. On August 8, he was tested for H1N1 and was found to be positive. He was put on oseltamivir, but his condition worsened and he died this morning, the statement said. Officials said the boy was asthmatic and had been suffering from other problems, including kidney and liver-related complications. This was the first death due to the virus in Chennai.

A 14-year-old girl had died in Pune on August 3, the first patient to have succumbed to the virus in India. A 42-year-old non-resident Indian on a visit home had died of the flu in Ahmedabad yesterday and a woman had succumbed to the virus in Mumbai on Saturday.

Meanwhile, as many as 95 fresh cases of H1N1 have been reported from different cities in India, including 47 from Pune alone and 22 from Mumbai and six in Panchgani, also in Maharashtra.

Fourteen cases were reported from Delhi and one each from Noida, Gurgaon, Ajmer and Mangalore.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases reported so far in India has risen to 959. As many as 563 of them have already been discharged from hospitals after treatment.

The statement said all the 47 cases in Pune were indigenous in nature while only one out of the 22 new cases in Mumbai had travelled recently to Austria. The six cases in Panchgani in Satara district are schoolmates of previousy reported cases.

In Delhi, ten of the 14 cases were indigenous. Of the remaining four, two had travelled to the United States and two to Singapore. The case in Noida is a close contact of a previously reported positive case, while the latest case in Gurgaon has no travel history. In Ajmer, the new case is a person who had travelled recently to Dubai. In Mangalore, two of the three cases are indigenous in nature while one of them had travelled to the United Kingdom.

In Pune, five other cases are still admitted in Pune's Sassoon Hospital, of which the condition of two was said to be critical. A Central team is stationed in the city to assess the situation and institute appropriate public health measures.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had talked to Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad yesterday and urged him to step up the efforts to check the spread of the virus.

He also said that there was need to create better awareness about the virus and prevent the spread of misinformation.

He said the state governments should be asked to create more isolation wards in hospitals and train more doctors and paramedical staff to deal with the flu.

Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad held a review meeting with senior officials today, including Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar, following which he announced several measures to step up the efforts to tackle the virus.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had on June 11 declared the influenza A (H1N1) virus as a phase 6 pandemic.

According to the latest update from WHO, as on July 31, as many as 1,62,380 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza A (H1N1) were reported from 168 countries around the world, with a total of 1154 deaths

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India, China express satisfaction at progress on border question

India and China have expressed satisfaction at the progress being made in their talks on the boundary question and said that peace and tranquillity should , meanwhile, be maintained in the border areas.

Chinese State Councilor and Special Representative on the Boundary Question Dai Bingguo calling on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. National Security Advisor M K Narayanan can also be seen.
Chinese State Councilor and Special Representative on the Boundary Question Dai Bingguo calling on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. National Security Advisor M K Narayanan can also be seen.
India and China have expressed satisfaction at the progress being made by them in the talks on the boundary question between their Special Representatives M K Narayanan and Dai Bingguo and reiterated that, pending the settlement of the issue, peace and tranquillity should be maintained in the border areas.

In a statement issued yesterday at the end of the 13th round of the talks between Mr Narayanan and Mr Bingguo, the two sides noted that the Strategic and Co-operative Partnership established between them in 2005 was a major milestone in the relationship.

They reiterated their commitment to consolidate this partnership in all fields in a comprehensive way, it said.

The statement quoted Mr Dai, Chinese State Councillor, as saying that China took a positive view of India's development and progress and also supported a bigger role for India in international affairs.

During his visit, Mr Dai called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

He conved to Dr Singh the greetings of Chinese President Hu Jintao and also handed over a written message of greetings from Premier Wen Jiabao to him.

According to the statement, the two-day talks between Mr Narayanan and Mr Dai were held in a cordial and friendly atmosphere.

Apart from the boundary issues, the discussions covered a broad agenda which included the entire gamut of bilateral relations and regional and international issues of mutual interest.

Describing relations with China as a key foreign policy priority for India, Mr Narayanan, who is the National Security Adviser, said that the joint document on a "Shared Vision for the 21st Century" signed during Prime Minister’s visit to China in January 2008 has taken bilateral relations to a new level.

There has been a significant expansion in bilateral cooperation in areas such as trade and investment, defence, culture, education and people-to-people exchanges, he said.

Reciprocating the sentiments expressed by Mr Narayanan, Mr. Dai referred to the rapid growth witnessed in the bilateral relations in recent years.

Highlighting the importance of ongoing consultations and coordination between the two countries at multilateral fora, he expressed the hope that the two countries would jointly meet global challenges in the spirit of the Shared Vision.

Apart from Mr Narayanan, the Indian delegation to the talks included Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who was until recently, the country's Ambassador in Beijing, and other senior officials from the external affairs ministry and the Prime Minister's Office.

The Chinese team included Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei and other senior officials of the defence ministry and other ministries.

The latest round of talks has come after a gap of close to a year since the last discussions were held in September, 2008.

Mr Narayanan and Mr Dai were named by their respective governments as the Special Representatives for the talks which are aimed at finding a settlement of the boundary question between the two countries that is "fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable" and based on the Agreement on Guiding Principles and Political Parameters signed between the two countries in April 2005.

Mr Dai is the first high-level official from China to visit India after the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Dr Singh began its second straight five-year term in May after wining a decisive mandate in the general elections.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had told the Rajya Sabha on July 31 that both countries were making efforts to find a settlement to the border issue.

"The matter, of course, is complex and requires time and lots of patience. Meanwhile, our endeavour is to ensure that peace and tranquillity are maintained in the border areas," he had said.

Mr Krishna said the two countries have a strategic and co-operative partnership, with an established architecture for dialogue through which all issues of common interest and concern are discussed.

He said bilateral trade had also grown significantly and a target of $ 60 billion by 2010 had been jointly set.

The minister had also said that the "Shared Vision of the 21st Century" signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao in January 2008 had added a regional and multi-dimensional aspect to the bilateral ties between the two countries.

Dr Singh had, during his visit to Beijing in January last year, said that the "Shared Vision of the 21st Century" was an important milestone in the evolution of the relations between their countries, reflecting not only their common perceptions but also their desire to purposefully cooperate in the future.

Among other things, the document said the two countries had agreed to continue deepening the mutual understanding and trust between their armed forces.

They recognized that their strategic and cooperative partnership should be based on strong, diversified and mutually beneficial economic ties.

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RIL breaks silence on Anil Ambani allegations, says they are baseless and motivated

RIL on Friday broke its silence on the statements by Anil Ambani about the pricing of gas from the KG D6 block saying they were baseless and motivated.

Dhirubhai-1 FPSO unit at KG D-6 block, at night.
Dhirubhai-1 FPSO unit at KG D-6 block, at night.

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), led by Mukesh Ambani, today broke its silence on the recent statements made by his younger brother Anil Ambani over their near three-year battle on the pricing of gas from the Krishna Godavari (KG) D6 block, saying they were part of an orchestrated campaign designed to bring into public debate and prejudge the issues that are pending before the Supreme Court.

"We emphatically refute and outrightly reject the baseless, tendentious and motivated allegations and insinuations made by Mr. Anil Ambani and his associates against RIL and its Chairman, Mr. Mukesh Ambani," a statement issued by RIL today said.

The two Ambani brothers are involved in an unseemly battle over the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that they signed when the Reliance empire, built by their father Dhirubhai Ambani, was split between them in 2005 after a prolonged public spat over ownership issues following his death in July, 2002.

The MoU said RIL would supply 28 mmscmd of gas from its Krishna Godavari (KG) D-6 block to RNRL on the same terms that RIL would supply gas to the public sector power major NTPC Ltd, subject to government approval.

RIL had earlier emerged as the lowest bidder for supplying gas to NTPC with its offer of a price of $ 2.34 per mmBtu. The two companies, however, are yet to sign a formal gas sale and purchase agreement, with the matter now in the Bombay High Court, after RIL objected to some of the conditions, especially those relating to liability, in the draft agreement.

RIL and Niko Resources of Canada had won the exploration contract for the block under the government's New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP). RIL owns a 90 per cent stake in the project while Niko holds the remaining ten per cent.

The Bombay High Court ruled in June that RIL should supply gas to RNRL at $ 2.34 per million metric British thermal unit (mmBtu), which is nearly half the $ 4.20 price it had set in an interim order in January. The matter is now in the Supreme Court, where RIL has gone in for an appeal and the Petroleum ministry has filed a special leave petition (SLP).

"Over the last few days, Mr. Anil Ambani and his associates have made several public statements commenting on issues arising out of the proceedings filed before the

Hon’ble Supreme Court of India by his company, Reliance Natural Resources Ltd. (RNRL), the Government of India and Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL)," the statement from RIL.said.

"Mr. Anil Ambani’s public statements, many of which have been made directly to the press, are a part of an orchestrated campaign designed to bring into public debate and prejudge the issues that are pending before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India," it said.

The statement said Mr Anil Ambani and his associates had attempted to convert what were essentially legal issues into public issues for a self-serving media campaign aimed at maligning RIL as also other venerable institutions of the country for private and personal gain.

"We would like to assure the people of India, the Government of India, Honourable Members of Parliament and all our shareholders that our objective is to act at all times in a manner that is fully in consonance with our respect for the law of the land and is protective of the nation’s interests.

Anil Ambani
Anil Ambani

"We have consistently maintained that in the KG Basin RIL is only a contractor engaged by the Government of India to harness the Basin’s hydrocarbon assets in the best interest of the nation," it said.

RIL said that, as a contractor to the Government, operating one of the largest and logistically one of the most difficult deep water gas discoveries anywhere in the world, it had at all times acted with a full sense of responsibility and in complete compliance with all obligations attached to its role as the contractor.

The company said it was proud of having made an important contribution to India's energy security. It said the asset that had been created by its investment of over Rs 32,000 crore would accelerate India's economic growth and create large-scale employment. It also said that this investment in developing the KG Basin had been made after the demerger of Reliance Industries in 2005.

"As a law abiding and responsible corporate citizen, RIL has chosen to refrain from reacting to the malicious propaganda unleashed by Mr. Anil Ambani in the national media. Our legal advisors have also counseled us to refrain from commenting on issues being adjudicated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. As such, we shall continue to exercise restraint in the face of Mr. Anil Ambani’s provocative public statements. We hope that Mr. Anil Ambani and his associates will also exercise similar restraint and leave the matter to be decided by the Hon’ble Supreme Court," the statement said.

"Members of the media have rightfully sought our responses to Mr. Anil Ambani’s comments on numerous occasions. However, we believe and hope that the media will understand and appreciate that our respect for the judicial process determines that we present our views and contentions on all aspects of the dispute with RNRL only before the Hon’ble Supreme Court. During the course of his media campaign, Mr. Anil Ambani has also made several personal comments about his elder brother and the Chairman of RIL, Mr. Mukesh Ambani. While Mr. Mukesh Ambani is profoundly saddened by his brother’s remarks, he requests the media to respect his decision not to respond," the statement added.

Mr Anil Ambani has, in recent days, launched a no-holds-barred attack on RIL and the Union Petroleum Ministry, accusing his elder brother's company of corporate greed and the Union Petroleum Minister Murli Deora of being biased in favour of RIL.

The younger Ambani brother had also written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention in the matter.

He said the Petroleum Ministry was raising the bogey of sovereign ownership of national assets such as gas only to bail out RIL and help it renege on its contractual commitments to his company RNRL.

He has also argued that higher prices for the gas from KG D6 block would affect NTPC also.

RNRL has also suggested that RIL had "gold plated" its investments in the KG basin, a charge that has been vehemently denied by the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons.

It has also said that some of the people involved in the independent assessments carried out to evaluate RIL's capital expenditure claims had various kinds of links to the company.

Further, it wanted the audit report of the Comptroller and Auditor General in this regard to be made public. Media reports have quoted sources in the CAG's office as saying that the audit was still not complete and that they were awaiting some more information from RIL on the costs of the project.

Mukesh Ambani
Mukesh Ambani

The dispute has also figured in Parliament in recent days. Mr Deora said in the Lok Sabha last week that the government had nothing to do with the dispute between RIL and RRNL as well as the differences between the two brother but would do everything possible to protect its legal rights to regulate the utilisation of gas and its allocation.

"We have nothing to do with the private dispute of two industries or industrialists. However, we have everything to do with protecting the interests of the Government and public interest; this is our constitutional and legal obligation. We will make all endeavours to protect Government’s legal rights to regulate the utilization of gas and its allocation," he had said in a statement in the Lower House of Parliament.

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India, China borders talks on Friday

National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Chinese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Dai Bingguo will meet in Delhi on Friday for the 13th round of the talks on the boundary question between India and China.

A file photo of National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Chinese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Dai Bingguo meeting in Delhi in April 2007.
A file photo of National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Chinese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Dai Bingguo meeting in Delhi in April 2007.
National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Chinese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Dai Bingguo will meet here tomorrow for the 13th round of the talks on the boundary question between the two countries.

Mr Narayanan and Mr Dai have been named as the Special Representatives for the talks and have held 12 rounds of discussions so far in an effort to work out a settlement of the boundary question that is fair, reasonable, mutually acceptable and based on the Agreement on Guiding Principles and Political Parameters signed between the two countries in April 2005.

Tomorrow's meeting is being held after a gap of close to a year, the last round of talks having been held in September, 2008.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had told the Rajya Sabha on July 31 that both countries were making efforts to find a settlement to the border issue.

"The matter, of course, is complex and requires time and lots of patience. Meanwhile, our endeavour is to ensure that peace and tranquillity are maintained in the border areas," he had said.

Mr Krishna said the two countries have a strategic and co-operative partnership, with an established architecture for dialogue through which all issues of common interest and concern are discussed.

He said bilateral trade had also grown significantly and a target of $ 60 billion by 2010 had been jointly set.

The minister had also said that the "Shared Vision of the 21st Century" signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao in January 2008 had added a regional and multi-dimensional aspect to the bilateral ties between the two countries.

Dr Singh had, during his visit to Beijing in January last year, said that the "Shared Vision of the 21st Century" was an important milestone in the evolution of the relations between their countries, reflecting not only their common perceptions but also their desire to purposefully cooperate in the future.

Among other things, the document said the two countries had agreed to continue deepening the mutual understanding and trust between their armed forces.

They recognized that their strategic and cooperative partnership should be based on strong, diversified and mutually beneficial economic ties.

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All-woman newspaper in Chitrakoot gets UNESCO Literacy Prize

Khabar Lahariya, a newspaper produced entirely by women in the rural areas of Chitrakoot and Banda districts of Uttar Pradesh, is among the four winners of this year's Literacy Prizes awarded by UNESCO.

Khabar Lahariyan
Photo courtesy: NIRANTAR
Khabar Lahariya, a newspaper produced entirely by women in the rural areas of Chitrakoot and Banda districts of Uttar Pradesh, is among the four winners of this year's Literacy Prizes awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The newspaper has been chosen for the award in recognition of its innovative programmes designed to teach women, adolescents and other marginalised populations how to read and write, a UN press release said today.

The weekly newspaper – distributed to more than 20,000 readers in Uttar Pradesh– is entirely created and marketed by newly literate women who are training as journalists, the release said.
The Khabar Lahariya Team which won the Chameli Devi Jain award for Outstanding Woman Media Person in 2004.
The Khabar Lahariya Team which won the Chameli Devi Jain award for Outstanding Woman Media Person in 2004.Photo courtesy: NIRANTAR

The rural newspaper is written, edited, illustrated, produced and marketed by a group of women, most of them from marginalised Dalit, Kol and Muslim communities.

The other prizes went to the Tin Tau’s reading skills programme in Burkina Faso, which focuses on gender and community development; the Pashai Language Development Project in Afghanistan, which provides literacy, livelihood, public health and nutrition education to about 1,000 ethnic minority Pashai men and women annually; and a continuing education programme in the Philippines, which attempts to eliminate illiteracy in the 49 villages of the Agoo municipality.

An honourable mention also went to a programme in Bhutan for its holistic approach to literacy and its success in reaching remote areas, with an emphasis on literacy as an integral part of the country’s "Gross National Happiness," as well as its focus on adults and out-of-school youth, particularly women and girls.
A Khabar Lahariya reporter gathering information.
A Khabar Lahariya reporter gathering information.Photo courtesy: NIRANTAR

The theme for this year’s awards was "Literacy and Empowerment," and the laureates were proclaimed by the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, on the recommendation of an international jury.

The award ceremony will be held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on September 8 to coincide with International Literacy Day, the release added.
The newspaper being produced......and distributed.
The newspaper being produced and distributed.Photo courtesy: NIRANTAR

Khabar Lahariya, which means "News Waves" in the Bundeli language, had won the prestigious Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Woman Mediaperson in 2004. The newspaper is brought out by a collective of newly literate women with support from Nirantar, a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) and resource group.

The newspaper began publishing in May 2002 in Chitrakoot, among the poorest districts in the country, and a second edition was launched in the adjoining Banda district four years later. It is priced at Rs 2 a copy and sold in the two districts through agents and small shops and tea stalls in the block headquarters and in more than 400 remote villages and hamlets where even established newspaper groups find it difficult to set up a distribution network.
An editorial workshop in progress
An editorial workshop in progress.Photo courtesy: NIRANTAR

The Khabar Lahariya group is now registered as an independent organisation, Pahal, which is probably the only rural women's media collective in the country.

The 8-page newspaper carries a mix of news, information and entertainment tailored to meet the needs of its Bundelkhandi audience, who are rural people with mostly low levels of literacy. Topics of coverage include current affairs and politics, functioning of panchayats, bureaucracy, schools and hospitals in the region.

Special attention is given to reporting about atrocities on women and marginalised sections of society. The process of production takes place over a two-day writing, editing and illustrating workshop.

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Govt: Nothing to do with Ambanis' fight, will protect rights on gas utilisation

The government on Monday said that it had nothing to do with the dispute between the Ambani brothers, but would do everything possible to protect its legal rights to regulate the utilisation of gas and its allocation.

Dhirubhai-1, the floating production storage and offloading vessel, on the Krishna-Godavari Basin, seen at night, after commencement of production.
Dhirubhai-1, the floating production storage and offloading vessel, on the Krishna-Godavari Basin, seen at night, after commencement of production.
The government today declared that it had nothing to do with the dispute between Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), headed by Mr Mukesh Ambani (52), and Reliance Natural Resources Ltd (RNRL), led by his estranged younger brother Anil Ambani (50), but would do everything possible to protect its legal rights to regulate the utilisation of gas and its allocation.

"We have nothing to do with the private dispute of two industries or industrialists. However, we have everything to do with protecting the interests of the Government and public interest; this is our constitutional and legal obligation. We will make all endeavours to protect Government’s legal rights to regulate the utilization of gas and its allocation," Petroleum Minister Murli Deora said in a statement in the Lok Sabha.

The statement was made in response to questions raised in the House on July 29 by Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav about, among other things, the supply of gas to the Dadri power plant being set up in Uttar Pradesh by RNRL. He had also alleged discrimination against Uttar Pradesh in the matter of allocation of gas.

The two Ambani brothers are involved in a near three-year battle over terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that they signed when the Reliance empire, built by their father Dhirubhai Ambani, was split between them in 2005 after a prolonged public spat over ownership issues following his death in July, 2002.

The MoU said RIL would supply 28 mmscmd of gas from its Krishna Godavari (KG) D-6 block to RNRL on the same terms that RIL would supply gas to the public sector power major NTPC Ltd, subject to government approval.
Petroleum Minister Murli Deora
Petroleum Minister Murli Deora

RIL had earlier emerged as the lowest bidder for supplying gas to NTPC with its offer of a price of $ 2.34 per mmBtu. The two companies, however, are yet to sign a formal gas sale and purchase agreement, with the matter now in the Bombay High Court.

RIL and Niko Resources of Canada had won the exploration contract for the block under the government's New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP). RIL owns a 90 per cent stake in the project while Niko holds the remaining ten per cent.

The Bombay High Court ruled in June that RIL should supply gas to RNRL at $ 2.34 per million metric British thermal unit (mmBtu), which is nearly half the $ 4.20 price it had set in an interim order in January. The matter is now in the Supreme Court, where RIL has gone in for an appeal and the Petroleum ministry has filed a special leave petition (SLP).

Mr Deora said that as far as RNRL's Dadra power plant was concerned, the case for supply of gas was considered by the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM).

"This plant is neither installed nor functional. There are many other plants which are in the process of being set up in different parts of the country. The decision of EGoM dated 8.1.2009 in this regard is as follows: Quote :

"Subject to the availability of gas, necessary allocations from RIL's KG D-6 fields will be made to these projects in the pipeline, including Dadri power project, as and when they are ready to commence production. This will be without prejudice to the decision of the Court cases.' Unquote," he said.

"Hence, the intention of the Government is very clear. We will allocate gas to Dadri plant subject to availability and that Dadri plant will be treated on the same footing as other similar plants placed under similar circumstances," Mr Deora said.

The minister said that according to the production sharing contract (PSC) signed in 2000 between the Government and the Contractor (RIL), gas to be produced from the Krishna Godavari (KG) D-6 fields was to be utilised in accordance with the Gas Utilisation Policy to be approved by the Government.
Anil Ambani
Anil Ambani

He said the EGoM had approved the Gas Utilisation Policy which says that, out of the initial production, 15 mmscmd will go to existing urea plants, 18 mmscmd to existing power plants, 3 mmscmd to existing LPG plants and remaining 5 mmscmd for City Gas Distribution projects.

The EGoM had further decided that, if any gas remained unutilized against this allocation, it would be allocated to existing gas-based steel plants and existing gas-based power plants, including captive power plants, he said.

Mr Deora said gas production from the KG D-6 fields began on April 1 this year and around 31 mmscmd of gas is being produced at present. Within a year, this is expected to go up to 80 mmscmd, he said.

He said that as far as the power sector was concerned, 18 mmscmd had been allocated to various existing plants to improve their Plant Load Factor (PLF).

He pointed out that no gas had been allocated to any plant, which is not existing or functional.

As far as NTPC was concerned, Government has allocated 2.67 mmscmd gas to its plants from the 18 mmscmd allocated for the power sector.

Another 2.7 mmscmd had been allocated to Ratnagri Gas and Power Private Ltd (RGPPL) in which NTPC has 28% stake, he said.

"Gas is a scarce commodity and we would like to give gas to as many plants as possible. But, obviously, the first priority will be to supply gas to existing plants, which are not operating at all or are operating sub-optimally because of non-availability of gas," he said.
Mukesh Ambani
Mukesh Ambani

The minister said there had been no discrimination against Uttar Pradesh in the matter of gas allocation, saying that the NTPC plant in Dadri had been allocated 0.45 mmscmd of gas as it was covered under the criteria evolved by the EGoM.

He said that out of a total of 15 existing gas-based urea plants in the entire country, five were in Uttar Pradesh at Aonla, Phulpur, Shahjahanpur, Babrala and Jagdishpur, and all of them had been given gas.

Mr Deora said it was not correct to say that the Government did not present its case before the Bombay High Court. He said the government had intervened in the RIL-RNRL dispute in the court and placed before it its submissions indicating its rights under the PSC, including inter alia the Gas Utilisation Policy.

He said the Government had requested the High Court to lift the injunction on creation of third party interests by RIL, which would enable RIL to supply gas to customers subject to Government policy.

"The plea of the Government was accepted and, as a result of the interim order, gas production has started and gas supply is being made to priority sectors as per the Gas Utilization Policy approved by the EGoM," he said.

According to him, in the fertilizer sector, it is estimated that the supply of 15 mmscmd gas would result, on an annual basis, in saving of subsidy of Rs. 3000 crore.

He said that since the gas production from the KG D6 block started from April 1 this year, about 4000 MW of additional power is being generated as 18 mmscmd gas has been allotted to the power sector.

The minister said about 25 mmscmd of additional gas needs to be supplied to the power sector to enable optimum operation of existing power plants and power plants to be commissioned in 2009-10, which would lead to additional generation of over 5,000 MW of power.

He pointed out that the present cost of assets, which are lying idle/underutilized in the power sector due to non-availability of gas, prior to the commencement of KG D-6 production, was around Rs. 36,000 crore.

Further, he said that three mmscmd gas had been allotted to LPG sector, which would lead to an additional production of about one million tonnes of LPG which is presently being imported in the country.

Mr Deora said that the final order of the Bombay High Court on June 15 in the RIL-RNRL dispute had implications on the Government’s rights to formulate and implement the Gas Utilization Policy under the Production Sharing Contract.

"Notwithstanding Government policies and the provisions of the PSC, the order observes that the provisions of the MOU are binding on the parties. The MOU, as per the judgment, provides that 12 mmscmd will be given to NTPC, 28 mmscmd will be given to RNRL and the remaining, at the option of ADAG, will be shared between RIL and RNRL in the ratio of 60:40. The MoU also stipulates that this share of gas will be applicable to gas not only from reserves of KG D-6 field, but also from other fields to be explored and operated by RIL, even consequent to future bidding by RIL. Under the circumstances, it was necessary to file an SLP in the Hon’ble Supreme Court and accordingly action has been taken. I would not like to dwell further on the subject, as the matter is sub judice," the minister added.

Mr Deora's statement came a day after 30 members of Parliament (MPs) from the Left parties wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in which they urged the government to take over the distribution and marketing of gas from the KG D6 block.

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PM reviews security scenario at high-level meeting

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reviewed the overall security situation in the country at a high-level meeting attended by his senior cabinet colleagues and top officials on Saturday.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reviewed the overall security situation in the country at a high-level meeting attended by his senior cabinet colleagues and top officials here today.

The two-hour long meeting of the National Security Council, held at Dr Singh's 7, Race Course Road, focused in particular on the situation along the country's borders with Pakistan and China, sources said.

The meeting is also understood to have discussed the steps taken in recent months to prevent incidents like the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai and to beef up the security and intelligence apparatus.

Apart from intelligence inputs about possible terror strikes, the meeting also discussed the implementation of the plan to boost coastal security in view of the fact that the ten terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks had sneaked into the metropolis by the sea route.

On the internal security front, the meeting is learnt to have considered the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the North-Eastern states and the Naxalite-affected states.

The meeting was attended by, among others, Defence Minister A K Antony, Home Minister P Chidambaram, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the sources said.

National Security Adviser M K Narayanan, Mr T K A Nair, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Home Secretary G K Pillai, Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao also attended the meeting, they said.

The three service chiefs, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, General Deepak Kapoor and Air Chief Marshal P V Naik were also among those present, they added.

Officials in the Prime Minister's Office declined to give out any details of the meeting, except to say that it was a routine affair that made an appraisal of the overall security situation.

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Meaningful dialogue with Pakistan only after it acts against terror: Krishna

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said on Friday that any meaningful dialogue with Pakistan could only follow the fulfilment of its commitments not to allow its territory to be used for terrorist activities against India.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today said that any meaningful dialogue with Pakistan could only follow the concrete fulfilment of its commitments not to allow its territory to be used for terrorist activities against India.

He said the Joint Statement issued by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani after their meeting at Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt earlier this month encapsulated this view and standpoint.

"Progress is not possible in our dialogue with Pakistan in an atmosphere vitiated by violence or the threat to use violence," Mr Krishna said in his reply to a discussion in the Rajya Sabha on the working of the Ministry of External Affairs.

"The peoples of our two countries must be allowed to prosper in an atmosphere of peace. At the same time, we cannot, and will not, be oblivious to the continued threat of terrorism emanating from Pakistan," he said.

The minister's speech in the Upper House came a day after a two-day discussion ended in the Lok Sabha yesterday on the India-Pakistan Joint Statement and other issues arising out of the Prime Minister's recent visits to Italy, France and Egypt.

The Joint Statement has been criticised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other opposition parties for delinking action by Pakistan against terror from the Composite Dialogue process between the two countries. It has also been attacked for the reference made to Balochistan, where Pakistan accuses India of fomenting unrest.

Referring to the speech made earlier in the House by BJP leader Arun Shourie, Mr Krishna said he was now advocating a policy towards Pakistan that his own government did not follow.

He denied charges that India had removed the pressure on Pakistan to act against terrorism and had lowered its expectations.

On the contrary, he said, Dr Singh and he had left the Pakistani leadership in no doubt whatsoever that India expected action against the perpetrators of the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai, the dismantling of the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan and the prevention of such attacks in the future.

"I welcome the fact that we debate, in a democratic manner, our policy towards Pakistan. But to make a point, or oppose the government, let us not give more credence to what others say over what Prime Minister and our own government have formally stated," he said.

"We are not here to question each others’ motives. We are united against terrorism period. But equally we will continue the consistent policy towards Pakistan which includes dialogue in the steps we will take provided Pakistan takes unequivocal steps," he said.

At the outset, Mr Krishna said India’s steady ascendance as an economic power had expanded her circle of interaction and engagement with the rest of the world.

"One of the main challenges of our foreign policy lies in creating and maintaining a regional and international environment which would enable us to sustain a high rate of economic growth, create more opportunities for Indian entrepreneurship and enable India to realize her vast, latent potential," he said.

"The pursuit of enhanced trade, investment inflows, technology transfers, energy security and other economic imperatives has become an overarching imperative of our foreign policy. At the same time, India's own established capabilities, particularly in the field of some of the frontier technologies like space, information technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, and her frontline role in the global knowledge economy have imparted a new confidence and strength to our foreign policy initiatives.

"To achieve and accelerate India’s developmental transformation through enhanced interaction with the global economy, a neighbourhood policy that ensures a peaceful periphery, and to continuously seek a supportive international environment, therefore, remain the fundamental objective of India's foreign policy," he explained.

Mr Krishna dwelt at considerable length on the working of India's foreign policy in its neighbourhood and described how it had worked for the evolution of SAARC into an effective organisation for meaningful regional integration.

He talked about India's ties with Bhutan, Nepal and Afghanistan and its significant economic assistance programmes for the development efforts in these countries.

He said India was prepared to assist the government of Sri Lanka in the recovery of war-ravaged areas in the North and East of the country and to help alleviate the humanitarian problems of the large numbers of the local population in the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) so that they were able to lead normal lives once again.

He said India was contributing substantially to this humanitarian effort, including the setting up of a field hospital at Vavuniya, supply of shelter material, despatch of demining teams and supply of more than 1.7 lakh family packs of food and relief supplies.

He said the Prime Minister had announced Rs 500 crores assistance and, if need be, he had also promised to increase the quantum of aid.

Mr Krishna also detailed the steps being taken to develop the North-East region and increase the region's engagement with Myanmar. He also spoke about the various initiatives being taken as part of the government's "Look East" policy.

He said the Special Representatives of India and China were discussing the boundary question and both countries had agreed to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement to the issue. He said the matter was complex and required time and patience. Meanwhile, the endeavour is to ensure that peace and tranquility are maintained in the border areas, he said.

He said the Gulf region was an area of special focus in India's foreign policy, forming as it does part of its strategic neighbourhood. It is also an important source of energy and home to more than four and a half million Indians as well as a major trading partner, he said.

The minister said India supported a united, independent, viable, sovereign state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognised borders side by side at peace with Israel.

He said India attached importance to its relations with Iran. "These relations are civilizational and historical, but equally the relationship should be a contemporary and modern one," he remarked.

Mr Krishna emphasised that India's relations with the United States were not at the cost of its relations with any other country.

"India-US relations have been transformed in recent years and the bilateral engagement extends across a wide spectrum which includes science and technology, energy, counter-terrorism, defence, security, trade and commerce, education, space among other issues. A major development was the signing of the India-US Civil Nuclear Agreement in October 2008. This landmark agreement has been followed by similar agreements with other countries for civil nuclear cooperation.

"A clearly defined architecture for dialogue was announced during the recent visit of US Secretary of State to India this month. The firm foundation provided by this robust bilateral engagement has enabled the India-US strategic partnership to strengthen itself in areas of global engagement. The two countries interact closely on global issues of common concern such as Energy Security, Disarmament and Non-proliferation, international peace and security, multilateral trade negotiations and the G20 Process," he said.

The minister said the End Use Monitoring arrangements that India recently agreed with the US for defence purchases provided for joint consultations on modalities and in no way compromised India's sovereignty. "The arrangements that we have agreed are fully in consonance with our sovereignty and dignity," he assured the House.

With regard to the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies and the recent G8 statement on the subject calling for a ban on such transfer to countries such as India which have not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), Mr Krishna said no decision had been taken on the subject by the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group.

He said India had been in regular touch with the NSG Troika (past, current and future chairman) and with key member-countries. He said that there was an India-NSG Troika meeting on May 11 as part of this dialogue. He said the NSG delegation was made aware of India's position and concerns. The NSG delegation said that they would convey these to the Group.

"It is India’s expectation that our international partners in civil nuclear cooperation will implement the bilateral agreements that we have entered into," he said.

Mr Krishna also spoke about India's relations with other developing countries in Africa, Latin America, and Central and South East Asia. He also spoke about the steps taken by the government in the wake of the spate of attacks on Indian students in recent weeks in Australia.

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Sonia backs, Pranab defends PM on India-Pak statement, NDA walks out

The NDA walked out of the Lok Sabha on Thursday after expressing its dissatisfaction with the government's explanation about the reference to Balochistan in the recent India-Pakistan Joint Statement. .

File photos of Sonia Gandhi and Pranab MukherjeeLeader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani led a walk-out by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the Lok Sabha today after expressing its dissatisfaction with the government's explanation over why it had allowed a reference to Balochistan in the India-Pakistan Joint Statement issued earlier this month.

The Joint Statement was issued by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani after their meeting on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit at Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt on July 16.

The opposition has been vociferously critical of the statement for the manner in which it has delinked action on terrorism from the Composite Dialogue process between the two countries and for the reference to threats faced by Pakistan in Balochistan, where it accuses India of fomenting unrest.

Dr Singh had put up a well-argued defence of the government's approach to relations with Pakistan yesterday and this was followed by a passionate defence of the official stand by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the Lok Sabha today.

Both of them argued that the Joint Statement only said that action by Pakistan against terrorism aimed at India from its territory need not depend on progress in the Composite Dialogue process. They also said that the unilateral reference by Pakistan to Balochistan appeared in the statement because India did not have anything to hide in this regard.

Mr Mukherjee said India had no subversive role in the Pakistani province and was not in the business of terrorism.

Later, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, in his reply to the two-day discussion, was pushed for an explanation by the Bharatiya Janata Party's Sushma Swaraj. When Mr Krishna said the reference to Balochistan was in the statement because "we have nothing to hide", it angered the BJP and other NDA constituents who felt the explanation was not enough.

Mr Advani said such a unilateral reference to Balochistan had appeared in a Joint Statement between the two countries for the very first time and felt the issue would continue to haunt India for a long time. He said he and his colleagues were staging a walk-out because they saw no purpose in participating any further in the discussion, given the government's reluctance to explain the matter in a better way.

The intervention by the Prime Minister yesterday and by Mr Mukherjee today came during a discussion initiated by BJP leader and former Yashwant Sinha on issues arising out of Dr Singh's recent visits to Italy, France and Egypt, including the India-Pakistan Joint Statement.

Mr Mukherjee's stout defence of the Prime Minister's stand was significant because it came after several days of speculation that the Congress party leadership had developed differences with Dr Singh over the Joint Statement.

The Finance Minister's intervention came hours after Congress President Sonia Gandhi came out in support of Dr Singh at a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party this morning.

She said the party supported and welcomed Dr Singh's stand on the issue and made it clear, as he had done yesterday, that talks with Pakistan could resume only when it took concrete steps to bring to justice those responsible for the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai and dismantled the terrorist infrastructure operating from that country against India.

Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi had also spoken out in support of the Prime Minister yesterday, saying that his intervention in the House was "very good" and "convincing".

Mr Mukherjee said today that the reference to Balochistan in the statement did not mean in any way that India had anything to do with the unrest in the province. He said the Indian consulates in Afghanistan was also not involved in any anti-Pakistan activities, as often alleged by Islamabad, and were only carrying out a constructive role in the rebuilding of war-torn Afghanistan.

Mr Advani repeatedly wanted to know why the Prime Minister had, when agreeing to include the reference to Balochistan, not insisted on also adding India's position in this regard.

Mr Mukherjee, who handled the External Affairs Ministry, for a good part of the first term of the Manmohan Singh government, said India's foreign policy was an extension of its national interest and was not based on any one party's whims. He asserted that the government's actions with regard to India-Pakistan relations or any other matter had not compromised the nation's sovereignty in any manner. Similarly, he said the government had not departed in any way from the country's long-held positions on foreign policy matters.

He said that it was important to keep talking to Pakistan and keep the channels of communication between the two countries open at all times.

After the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting, Mr Gandhi told reporters today that the government and party were one on the issue. He said the so-called differences between the two were a creation of the media.

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PM: No normalisation of ties with Pakistan unless it acts on terror

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday it was impossible to work towards full normalisation of relations with Pakistan unless it ensured its territory was not used for terrorist activities against India.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said it was impossible for any government in India to work towards full normalisation of relations with Pakistan unless the government of that country fulfilled, in letter and spirit, its commitment not to allow its territory to be used in any manner for terrorist activities against India.

Dr Singh said India could not wish away the fact that Pakistan was its neighbour. "We should be good neighbours. If we live in peace, as good neighbours do, both of us can focus our energies on the many problems – our abject poverty that confront millions and millions of people in South Asia," he said in his intervention in the discussion in the Lok Sabha on his recent visits to Italy, France and Egypt.

The discussion came in the background of the criticism by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the doubts expressed in several quarters about the Joint Statement issued by Dr Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani after their meeting at Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt on July 16.

The BJP and others raised questions about the manner in which the Joint Statement had delinked action on terrorism from the Composite Dialogue Process and the inclusion in it of a reference to Balochistan, where Pakistan accuses India of fomenting unrest.

BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, a former External Affairs Minister, who initiated the discussion, said India had completely reversed long-held foreign policy positions in recent weeks. Apart from the Joint Statement, Mr Sinha attacked the government for signing an agreement on End User Monitoring Arrangements with the United States for defence purchases, on the G8 statement which talks about denial of nuclear enrichment and reprocessing technology to countries such as India which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and on the concessions allegedly made by India on climate change in the statement issued after a meeting of the Major Economies Forum at L'Aquila in Italy this month.

On Pakistan, Mr Sinha said Dr Singh had offered to meet Pakistan more than half-way but said he had walked all the way into the Pakistani camp.

Other speakers such as Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and Mr Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United) wondered why the Prime Minister had agreed to talks with Pakistan after repeatedly taking the position that there could not be any resumption of the dialogue unless Pakistan brought those behind the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai to justice and took credible action dismantle terrorist infrastructure on its soil directed against India.

The Prime Minister said it was in India's vital interest to make sincere efforts to live in peace with Pakistan.

"But despite the best of intentions, we cannot move forward if terrorist attacks launched from Pakistani soil continue to kill and injure our citizens, here and abroad. That is the national position. I stand by it," he asserted to loud applause from the treasury benches.

"As I have said many times before, we cannot wish away the fact that Pakistan is our neighbour. If there is cooperation between us, and not conflict, vast opportunities will open up for trade, travel and development that will create prosperity in both countries," he said.

"I have said time and again and I repeat it right now again: it is impossible for any government in India to work towards full normalization of relations with Pakistan unless the Government of Pakistan fulfills, in letter and spirit, its commitment not to allow its territory to be used in any manner for terrorist activities against India," he said.

The Prime Minister said this assurance was given by Pakistan to his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee and repeated to him at every meeting he has had with the Pakistani leadership.

"The people of India expect these assurances to be honoured and this government recognizes that as the national consensus," he said.

Dr Singh said the Mumbai attacks had outraged the nation and cast a deep shadow over its relations with Pakistan. "The reality and the horror of it were brought into Indian homes over three traumatic days that still haunt us. The people of India demand that this must never happen again," he said.

He said that, over the past seven months, India had followed a policy, using all effective bilateral and multilateral instruments at its command, to ensure that Pakistan acted in the matter with credibility and sincerity.

"Soon after the attacks, the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on the Lakshar-e-Tayeba and its front organizations, including the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. It also imposed sanctions on four individuals connected with the organization, including one of the masterminds behind the Mumbai attacks, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.

"We exercised great restraint under very difficult circumstances but made it clear that Pakistan must act. On 5th January 2009, we handed over to Pakistan the details of the links to Pakistan that were revealed by our investigators. Some action followed and Pakistan formally responded to us on two occasions regarding the progress of their own investigations - in February 2009 and then just two days before my departure for Paris and Sharm el Sheikh," he said.

Dr Singh said the latest dossier was a 34 page document that gave details of the planning and sequence of events, details of the investigations carried out by the special Federal Investigation Agency team of Pakistan, a copy of the FIR lodged and the details and photographs of the accused in custody and those declared as proclaimed offenders. It provides details of the communication networks used, financing of the operation and seizures made in Pakistan including maps, lifeboats, literature on navigational training, intelligence manuals, back packs and so on, he said.

He said the Pakistan dossier stated that the investigation had established beyond doubt that LeT activists conspired, financed and executed the attacks. Five of the accused have been arrested, including Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, and thirteen others have been declared proclaimed offenders. A charge sheet has since been filed against them under Pakistan’s Anti Terrorism Act and other relevant laws.

He said India had been told that the investigations are nearly complete and that the trial will now proceed. Pakistan had sought some more information which would be provided shortly, he said.

"This is the first time that Pakistan has ever formally briefed us on the results of an investigation into a terrorist attack in India. It is also the first time that they have admitted that their nationals and a terrorist organisation based in Pakistan carried out a ghastly terrorist act in India," he said.

"The reality is that this is far more than the NDA Government was ever able to extract from Pakistan during its entire tenure despite all their tall talk. They were never able to get Pakistan to admit what they have admitted now. So the UPA government needs no lessons from the opposition on how to conduct foreign affairs or secure our nation against terrorist threats," he asserted.

At the same time, he said the steps Pakistan had taken did not go far enough. He hoped the trial would make quick progress and that exemplary punishment would be meted out to those responsible for the Mumbai attacks.

"We need evidence that action is being taken to outlaw, disarm and shut down the terrorist groups and their front organizations that still operate on Pakistani soil and which continue to pose a grave threat to our country," he said.

The Prime Minister said that, in the final analysis, India would have to depend on itself for national security and defence, despite all the friends it had.

"Self-help is the best help. There is no substitute to strengthening our defence capabilities, our internal security structures and our emergency response mechanisms. I wish to assure the House that the government is giving these matters the highest priority and attention," he said.

He went on to list the steps taken by the government to modernise and strengthen the defence, security and intelligence apparatus and address internal security challenges.

"We will spare no effort and no expense to defend our nation against any threat to our sovereignty, unity and integrity. This is the sacred and bounden duty of any Government of this great country," he said.

Dr Singh said India does not dilute its positions or its resolve to defeat terrorism by talking to any country.

He pointed out that other major powers affected by Pakistan-based terrorism were also engaging with that country.

"Unless we talk directly to Pakistan, we will have to rely on third parties to do so. That route, I submit to this august House, has very severe limitations as to its effectiveness, and for the longer term the involvement of foreign powers in South Asia is not something to our liking," he said.

"I say with strength and conviction that dialogue and engagement is the best way forward," he stressed.

"This has been the history of our relations with Pakistan over the last decade. Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee took a decision of political courage to visit Lahore in 1999. Then came Kargil and the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar. Yet, he invited General Musharraf to Agra and again tried to make peace. The nation witnessed the terrible attack on Parliament in 2001. There followed an extremely difficult phase in our relationship. The armed forces of the two countries stood fully mobilized.

"But, to his great credit, Shri Vajpayee was not deterred, as a statesman should not be. In 2004, he went to Islamabad, where a Joint Statement was issued that set out a vision for a cooperative relationship. I must remind the House that opposition parties supported these bold steps. I, for one, share Shri Vajpayee’s vision, and I have also felt his frustration in dealing with Pakistan," he said.

Dr Singh said that, at his meetings with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari at Yekaterinburg in Russia on June 16 and with Mr Gilani in Egypt, he had conveyed, in the strongest possible terms, India's concerns and expectations. "I conveyed to them the deep anger and hurt of the people of India due to the persistence of terrorist attacks in India," he said.

"I told them that the operations of all terrorist groups that threaten India must end permanently. I urged them to make no distinctions between different terrorist organizations. I said that it was not enough to say that Pakistan is itself a victim of terrorism. They must show the same political will and take the same strong and sustained action against terrorist groups operating on their eastern border as they now seem to be taking against groups on their western border," he said.

"Both President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani assured me that the Pakistan government was serious and that effective action would be taken against the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage," he said.

Responding to Mr Sinha's query if the trust deficit with Pakistan had narrowed or widened in recent months, Dr Singh said, "Let me say that in the affairs of two neighbours we should recall what (former US) President (Ronald) Reagan once said – trust but verify. There is no other way unless we go to war."

He said he had told the Pakistani leaders that another attack of the kind faced by Mumbai would put an "intolerable strain" on the relationship between the two countries and urged them to take all possible measures to prevent a recurrence.

Dr Singh said the interpretation that had been sought to be given to the Joint Statement that India would continue to engage in the Composite Dialogue with Pakistan whether it took action against terrorism or not, was not correct.

"The Joint Statement emphasized that action on terrorism cannot be linked to dialogue. Pakistan knows very well that with terrorism being such a mortal and global threat, no civilized country can set terms and conditions for rooting it out. It is an absolute and compelling imperative that cannot be dependent on resumption of the composite dialogue. In the Joint Statement itself, the two sides have agreed to share real time, credible and actionable information on any future terrorist threats," he said.

On the reference to Balochistan, this is what Dr Singh said: "When I spoke to Prime Minister Gilani about terrorism from Pakistan, he mentioned to me that many Pakistanis thought that India meddled in Balochistan. I told him that we have no interest in destabilizing Pakistan nor do we harbour any ill intent towards Pakistan. We believe that a stable, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan living in peace with its neighbours is in our own interest.

"I told him then, and I say it here again, that we are not afraid of discussing any issue of concern between the two countries. If there are any misgivings, we are willing to discuss them and remove them.

"I said to him that I had been told by the leadership of Pakistan several times that Indian Consulates in Afghanistan were involved in activities against Pakistan. This is totally false. We have had Consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad for 60 years. Our Consulates perform normal diplomatic functions and are assisting in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, where we have a large aid programme that is benefiting the common people of Afghanistan.

"But we are willing to discuss all these issues because we know that we are doing nothing wrong. I told Prime Minister Gilani that our conduct is an open book. If Pakistan has any evidence, and they have not given me any and no dossier has been given, we are willing to look at it because we have nothing to hide," he explained.

The Prime Minister said it was as much in Pakistan's vital interest, as it is in India's, to make peace. "Pakistan must defeat terrorism, before being consumed by it. I believe the current leadership there understands the need for action," he observed.

He said he got the impression that there was now a political consensus in Pakistan against terrorism, which should strengthen the hands of its leaders in taking the hard decisions that will be needed to destroy terrorism and its sponsors in their country.

"Our objective, as I said at the outset, must be a permanent peace with Pakistan, where we are bound together by a shared future and a common prosperity.

"I believe that there is a large constituency for peace in both countries. The majority of people in both countries want an honourable settlement of the problems between us that have festered far too long and want to set aside the animosities of the past. We know this, but in the past there have been hurdles in a consistent pursuit of this path. As a result, the enemies of peace have flourished. They want to make our alienation permanent, the distance between our two countries an unbridgeable divide. In the interests of our people, and in the interest of peace and prosperity of South Asia, we must not let this happen.

"That is why I hope and pray that the leadership in Pakistan will have the strength and the courage to defeat those who want to destroy, not just peace between India and Pakistan, but the future of South Asia. As I have said before, if they show that strength and that courage, we will meet them more than half way," he said.

Dr Singh agreed there were uncertainties in such matters and he could not predict the future in dealing with neighbours, two nuclear powers. "We have to begin to trust each other, but not blindly, but trust and verify. People say that we have broken the national consensus. I refuse to believe that we have broken the national consensus," he said.

He said the two sides, for the present, had only agreed their Foreign Secretaries would meet as often as necessary and report to the two Foreign Ministers who will meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

He pointed out that such meetings between the Foreign Secretaries and Foreign Ministers had been held even before the Joint Statement.

"As neighbours it is our obligation to keep our channels open. Look at what is happening in the world. The US and Iran have been sworn enemies for thirty years, and yet they feel compelled to enter into a dialogue. Unless we want to go to war with Pakistan, dialogue is the only way out. But we should do so on the basis of trust but verify," he said.

On the agreement on End Use Monitoring Arrangements with the US, Dr Singh said earlier such agreements were negotiated on a case to case basis by successive governments since the late 1990s.

"What we have now agreed with the US is a generic formulation which will apply to future such supplies that India chooses to undertake. By agreeing to a generic formulation, we have introduced an element of predictability in what is otherwise an ad hoc case by case negotiations on each occasion," he said.

He pointed out that India needed access to all technologies available in the world for the modernization of its defence forces.

"The threats to the country are growing and we need to have the capability to deal with them, and to be ahead of them. Our Armed Forces are entitled to the best equipment available anywhere in the world. It is also in our interest to diversify to the maximum extent possible the sources of our imports of defence items and equipment," he said.

"You have my assurance that the Government has taken all precautions to ensure an outcome that guarantees our sovereignty and national interest. Nothing in the text that has been agreed to compromises India’s sovereignty. There is no provision for any unilateral action by the US side with regard to inspection or related matters. India has the sovereign right to jointly decide, including through joint consultations, the verification procedure. Any verification has to follow a request, it has to be on a mutually acceptable date and at a mutually acceptable venue. There is no provision for on-site inspections or granting of access to any military site or sensitive areas. This is the position in regard to the end use monitoring," he said.

Dr Singh said the declaration adopted by the Major Economies Forum at L'Aquila on climate change was not a declaration of policy by India or a bilateral declaration by India and another country or a group of countries.

"It is a declaration that represents a shared view among 17 developed and developing countries, the latter category including China, South Africa, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico. Therefore, the formulations are necessarily generally worded to reflect different approaches and positions of a fairly diverse group of countries," he explained.

"It is India’s view, which has been consistently voiced at all forums, that global warming is taking place and that its adverse consequences will impact most heavily on developing countries like India. The reference in a document to 2ºC increase as a possible threshold reflects a prevalent scientific opinion internationally and only reinforces what India has been saying about the dangers from global warming. True, this is the first time that India has accepted a reference to 2ºC as a possible threshold guiding global action, but this is entirely in line with our stated position on global warming," he said.

He recalled that 37 developing countries, including India, China, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia, had tabled a submission at the multilateral negotiations, asking the developed countries to accept reduction targets of at least 40% by 2020 with 1990 as the baseline.

"The Major Economic Forum Declaration reaffirms the principles and provisions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in particular, the principle of equity and of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. As is well-known, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change imposes emission reduction targets only on developed countries. Developing countries are committed to sustainable development. The full incremental cost of any mitigation by them must be fully compensated by transfers of financial and technological resources from developed countries. This is fully reflected in the Major Economic Forum Declaration.

"Furthermore, at the insistence of India, supported by other developing countries, the Declaration includes an explicit acknowledgement that in undertaking climate change action, the "first and overriding priority" of developing countries will be their pursuit of the goals of economic and social development and poverty eradication. This should allay any apprehension that India will be under pressure to undertake commitments that may undermine her economic growth prospects," he said.

On the statement issued at L'Aquila by the G-8 countries on nuclear issues, Dr Singh said the government was fully committed to the achievement of full international civil nuclear cooperation. Consistent with this objective, in September last year India secured a clean exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, one that was India-specific. At that time also attempts were made to make a distinction. The NSG has agreed to transfer all technologies consistent with their national laws, he said.

"The ‘Statement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India’ approved by the Nuclear Suppliers Group on September 6, 2008 contains India’s reciprocal commitments and actions in exchange for access to international civil nuclear cooperation. It is our expectation that any future decisions of the NSG relating to the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing items and technology would take into account the special status accorded to India by the NSG. The NSG has given us this clean exemption knowing full well that we are not a signatory to the NPT.

"Prohibition by the NSG of such transfers would require a consensus amongst all the 46 countries. This does not exist at present. The exemption given to India by the NSG provides for consultations and we will hence remain engaged with that body, so that any decisions take into account the special status accorded to India by it.

"As far as the G-8 is concerned, the fact is that we have no civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the G8 bloc per se. We have, however, signed bilateral agreements with France, Russia and the United States. As I have said before, and I repeat it here, when I raised this matter with (French) President (Nicolas) Sarkozy, he was gracious enough to tell me that as far as France is concerned, there will be no restrictions. He also said that if we want him to go public on this, he will do so. Therefore, there is no consensus in the NSG to debar India from such technologies. We expect that the countries concerned will honour and implement their bilateral commitments," he said.

Dr Singh asserted that, pending global nuclear disarmament, there was no question of India joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapon State.

He also clarified that the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing items and technology had no bearing whatsoever on India’s upfront entitlement to reprocess foreign origin spent fuel and the use of such fuel in our own safeguarded facilities.

He said India had full mastery of the entire Nuclear Fuel Cycle, including enrichment and reprocessing technology.

"We have a well entrenched E&R infrastructure as well. Our domestic three-stage Nuclear Power Programme is entirely indigenous and self-sustaining. Our indigenous Fast Breeder Reactor Programme and linked technology puts us in the league of those very few nations which today possess cutting-edge technologies.

"The transfer of enrichment and reprocessing items and technology to India as part of full international civil nuclear cooperation would be an additionality to accelerate our three-stage programme," he added.

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India's first indigenous nuclear powered submarine launched for sea trials

India's first indigenous nuclear powered submarine, INS Arihant, was launched for sea trials at Visakhapatnam on Sunday, marking a historic milestone in its quest for self-reliance in the most advanced areas of defence technology.

Gursharan Kaur breaking a coconut on the hull of INS Arihant, marking its launch, at Visakhapatnam.
Gursharan Kaur breaking a coconut on the hull of INS Arihant, marking its launch, at Visakhapatnam.
India's first indigenous nuclear propelled strategic submarine, INS Arihant, was launched for sea trials at Visakhapatnam today, marking a historic milestone in its quest for self-reliance in the most advanced areas of defence technology.

Prime Minister Manmmohan Singh watched as his wife, Mrs Gursharan Kaur broke a coconut and performed a "puja" before unveiling a plaque naming the submarine. "I name it INS Arihant (destroyer of enemy). All the best to the submarine," she said at the ceremony held at the Ship Building Centre in the naval dockyard of the Eastern Naval Command (ENC).

The submarine was codenamed the Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV) during the years it was being built.

The ceremony was attended by, among others, Defene Minister A K Antony, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju, Minister of State for Human Resource Development D Purandareswari, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta and high-ranking officials from the Navy, the Department of Atomic Energy and the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Dr Singh said the launch of the submarine was a historic milestone in the country's defence preparedness and a reflection of the immense technical expertise that existed in the country and the strength of its research and development organisations.

"More importantly, the launch represents the determination and patriotism of our technologists, scientists and defence personnel who have overcome several hurdles and barriers to enable the country to acquire self-reliance in the most advanced areas of defence technology," he said.

"The construction of a submarine is a highly demanding task by itself. For the country to develop its first nuclear submarine is a special achievement," Dr Singh said, noting that India had joined a select group of five other countries---the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France---who possessed the capability to build a nuclear powered submarine.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the gathering at the launching ceremony of INS Arihant at Visakhapatnam.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the gathering at the launching ceremony of INS Arihant at Visakhapatnam.

He said he was particularly glad that this submarine was the outcome of a productive public-private partnership.

"Private industry in India has evolved considerably during the last few decades and we should leverage its strengths to achieve our defence goals," he said.

Dr Singh also expressed his appreciation to Russia for its consistent and invaluable cooperation, which symbolized the close strategic partnership that that the two countries enjoyed.

The Prime Minister said the sea was increasingly becoming relevant in the context of India's security interests and the country must re-adjust its military preparedness to this changing environment. The Indian Navy had a huge responsibility in this regard, he said.

He said the government was fully committed to ensuring the defence of the country's national interests and the protection of its territorial integrity. The government would continue to render all support to the constant modernization of the armed forces and to ensuring that they remain at the cutting edge of technology, he said.

"We do not have any aggressive designs nor do we seek to threaten anyone. We seek an external environment in our region and beyond that is conducive to our peaceful development and the protection of our value systems. Nevertheless it is incumbent upon us to take all measures necessary to safeguard our country and to keep pace with technological advancements worldwide. It has rightly been said that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," he said.

Dr Singh said the years of hard work, dedication and perseverance that had gone into today's launch were an example worthy of emulation.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his wife Gursharan Kaur, Defence Minister A K Antony, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajashekhar Reddy and other dignitaries at the INS Arihant launch.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his wife Gursharan Kaur, Defence Minister A K Antony, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajashekhar Reddy and other dignitaries at the INS Arihant launch.

"They show that no task is difficult and that there is no greater power than the power of self-belief. I am confident that the lessons learnt from this launch will enable the ATV Programme to achieve even better results in the coming years," he added.

Dr Singh congratulated the Director General of the ATV Programme Vice-Admiral D S P Verma (Retd.) and all the personnel associated with the project for achieving this milestone.

The 6000-tonne submarine is expected to be commissioned into full service after about two years of sea trials, including harbour trials of its nuclear reactor and other systems.

When commissioned into service, the submarine is expected to strengthen the country's strategic deterrence capabilities. Two more Arihant-class vessels are expected to be inducted into service by 2015.

Mr Antony told the gathering that the industrial capacity, know-how and trained manpower that had been built up by the project would sustain the construction of not only strategic platforms but would kick-start a new age in ship construction in the country.

The ATV Programme has involved cooperation and synergised efforts among the DRDO, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), the Navy, public sector undertakings and the private sector.

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Musharraf says Kargil was big success for Pakistan

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has said that the Kargil operation was a "big success" from the Pakistani point of view because it had an impact on Indian attitudes and made India agree to discussions on Kashmir.

Pervez Musharraf
Pervez Musharraf
Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has said that the Kargil operation was a "big success" from the Pakistani point of view because it had an impact on Indian attitudes and made India agree to discussions on Kashmir.

In the second part of a two-part interview to journalist Karan Thapar for the Devil's Advocate show on CNN-IBN, Gen Musharraf also insisted that his decision to sack former Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was constitutionally correct though handled badly and admitted he had reached a deal with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in the run-up to the elections before she was assassinated.

According to him, he would still be President of Pakistan if she had become Prime Minister after the elections. The interview, which marks the 10th anniversary of the Kargil war, is to be telecast on Sunday at 2030 hours.

"Yes, indeed, it was a big success because it had [an] impact even on the attitudes of the Indian side. How did we start discussing the Kashmir dispute? How was it that the Indians agreed that we will discuss Kashmir and there must be a negotiated settlement? Before this there was no such thing at all. Kashmir couldn't be spoken. Kashmir must not be mentioned even in United Nation's speeches by our leaders. This was the Indian side. [So] how did the Indians come on the negotiating table on Kashmir?" Gen Musharraf said in the interview.

Asked if he thought Kargil had changed the Indian attitude and response to Kashmir, the former military ruler said, "Yes, many things [did] - Kargil, the mujahideen activity, the India-Pakistan confrontation every time. All that, yes. [As a result] the Indian leadership perceived that Pakistan is now beyond coercion. And therefore there has to be some political negotiated settlement of this dispute."

He said he did not wish to make any comment in response to a question if he would repeat the Kargil operation given the fact that it represented, among other things, one of most serious downturns in India-Pakistan relations.

"Those downturns happen. What happened when India came into Siachen? Where was the downturn then? We don't think of that. What happened in 1971 when India was supporting Mukti Bahini in East Pakistan and made Bangladesh? Let's close this chapter... You cannot take Kargil alone [otherwise] I would like to take Siachen, I would like to take East Pakistan. We have to stop maligning each other. We have done enough harm to each other. If you want to go on the course of peace we need to resolve these disputes. And Pakistan has its own honour and dignity to be guarded. That's what I always say. Don't try to dominate or don't try to affect our sovereignty," he said.

Asked about the impression created by his 2006 memoirs that forces from the Pakistani army's Rawalpindi Corps and Force Command Northern Areas were involved in the Kargil Operation - contrary to a earlier Pakistani claim that they were conducted by alleged freedom fighters and the Pakistani army was not involved - the General stood by what he has written in his book. All he claimed was that these were "second line forces" but accepted they were commanded by the army's Rawalpindi Corps and FCNA.

"What I have written is final. I am not going to get into the details at all," he said.

"You must understand the arrangement. The Rawalpindi Corps has divisions under it and one of them is FCNA. FCNA has under it the NLI (the Northern Light Infantry), a second line force. Anywhere other than Siachen, it was the NLI which was deployed, which are the second line forces," he explained.

Gen Musharraf claimed the Kargil operation had ended with Pakistani forces in a "very favourable position."

"It was certainly very favourable. It was not supposedly favourable. Because if you are talking about India-Pakistan, Indians had moved all their forces against Kargil and there was [as a result] weakness elsewhere. So we knew what the Indian forces are capable [of] and what we are capable [of]... the situation was very favourable in Kargil, in Kashmir and on the entire border. We were capable of responding to any Indian action," he said.

As detailed in his memoirs, "In the Line of Fire", Gen Musharraf said he had left the decision on a ceasefire to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, even though the military situation was favourable, because the prime minister's own political position was weak and he could not sustain international pressure for a ceasefire.

"One, there was a ground military position, the other is that there was a lot happening internationally. Internationally there was the United States element putting a lot of pressure on the government to stop or whatever. So there was international pressure. And then there was the [domestic] political pressure. Whether the political situation was good enough to sustain that pressure. I therefore decided to only talk of the military [situation]," he said.

"Those are the decisions of the prime minister. What kind of pressure he can sustain and what is the political picture. He knows it better. I only talk of the military side and I told him there's no problem on the military side," he said.

Gen Musharraf refused to accept that it was a mistake for him to have sacked the Chief Justice, which had led to a series of events that finally culminated in his own resignation.

"No. What happened after that was bad. It led to a lot of turmoil in Pakistan. Certainly. But if you say it was a mistake - no. I took action which was absolutely constitutional and legal," he said.

He said he stood by that decision. "Absolutely. Yes. The handling, I would say, was shabby. Certainly. Handling of the Chief Justice was shabby," he said.

But he said he could not be blamed for this. "No. I don't blame myself because I don't get into the nitty gritty of which Deputy Superintendent of Police was rude to him, some cars were taken [away] or something of that sort. Now I am not passing such orders at all."

On the reported understanding with Ms Bhutto, he said, "There was an understanding. I did talk to her, yes. I had been talking to her twice. She was not supposed to come back before the elections."

He said Ms Bhutto would still be alive if she had not broken that understanding and come back to Pakistan in October, 2007. "I think so. I think so. Absolutely. She would have lived."

Asked if Ms Bhutto had lived to become prime minister again he would still be president of Pakistan, Gen Musharraf said, "I think I would have been. Yes... if she did get elected and she did become prime minister I would have continued as the president. Because I was elected by the [then] Parliament. So that would have continued."

Asked if his resignation had been a voluntary decision to step down or if he had been pushed aside, the former president said, "A combination. The environment had become such that remaining a rubber-stamp President with nothing to do literally was absolutely counterproductive and the political situation was evolving in a manner that my continuation was amiss, was purposeless."

He agreed that circumstances developed in such a way that he was gently eased out. "Yes but I took my own decision, yes, to leave."

He repeatedly said he was not involved in any understanding between the civilian government and the Pakistani army to grant him indemnity against future prosecutions for his actions in office. "I didn't get involved in any such understanding at all," he said, adding that he was prepared to fight any legal cases brought against him.

Gen Musharraf agreed that Pakistan had become a more complicated country after his fall from power. "Yes it has. A lot of complications [are there] – political, economic and law and order."

Asked if the successor government headed by President Asif Ali Zardari was weaker than his own, he replied: "Certainly, yes. I think at this moment, yes."

He agreed with observations that the present government was politically fragile and unable to deliver services effectively to the Pakistani people.

He refused to comment on the perceived rivalry between President Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. But he said that the rivalry between Mr Zardari and Mr Nawaz Sharif was "destabilising" and distracting attention from the fight against terrorism and extremism.

On the possibility of another military takeover in Pakistan, Gen Musharraf said, "[The] army has to ensure the integrity, territorial integrity and security, of Pakistan. So it's entirely the army's decision and the Chief's decision. But [so far] they go along with the government. I don't want to comment. These are sensitive issues."

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Thousands in India witness century's longest total solar eclipse

The Indian Air Force flew sorties to help scientists study the longest total solar eclipse of the century on Wednesday, an NGO organised a special flight and people gathered in different places to witness the celestial event.

Solar eclipse photograph taken from an IAF AN-32 aircraft.Solar eclipse photograph taken from an IAF AN-32 aircraft.Solar eclipse photograph taken from an IAF AN-32 aircraft.Solar eclipse photograph taken from an IAF AN-32 aircraft.
These photographs of the solar eclipse were taken from the IAF AN-32 aircraft at a height of 25,000m.
The Indian Air Force today flew sorties to help scientists study the longest total solar eclipse of the century that took place today, an NGO organised a special flight for enthusiasts and thousands of people of all age groups gathered in Delhi and other parts of the country to witness the much-awaited celestial event.

In Delhi, more than 2000 people were present by 0500 hours at the Nehru Planetarium, where arrangements had been made for them to watch the eclipse.

In the areas that lay in the path of the dark shadow of the moon, the conical shaped umbra, starting with the landfall point in Gujarat at 0630 hours, it was a case of darkness soon after dawn.

But enthusiasts at many places were disappointed by the thick clouds that had gathered in the skies during that period.

The eclipse began at 0528 hours IST when the shadow of the moon touched the Earth at local sunrise at a point in the Arabian Sea close to the western coast of India. The eclipse ended at 1042 hours IST when the Moon's shadow finally left the Earth at local sunset at a point in the South Pacific Ocean.

At approximately 6:23 am IST, the umbra of the eclipse touched the earth at sunrise at a point in the Gulf of Khambat in the Arabian Sea, near the southern coast of Gujarat.

At this time, the path of totality was about 200 km wide and the duration of totality at the central line was about 3 minutes 30 seconds.

The shadow crossed over central India, passed through south-east of Nepal, crossed North Bengal, southern part of Sikkim, most of Bhutan and north-western tip of Bangladesh. Then it entered Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, touched Myanmar and entered China.

The umbra swept over China, entered East China Sea and then passed through Japan's Ryukyu Island. The maximum duration of totality of 6 minutes 44 seconds occured at 0805 hours IST in the north Pacific Ocean where the width of the path was about 258 Km. The rest of the path did not pass through major land areas. It curved south-east through Pacific Ocean hitting some small atolls in the Polynesia. The totality ended at 0948 hours IST when the umbral cone left the earth at a point in the Pacific Ocean.

A spokesman for the Air Force said two separate missions were flown from Agra and Gwalior and they were deemed hugely successful by scientists associated with the experiment.

An AN-32 transport aircraft carrying scientific equipment, cameras and scientists that took off from Agra landed back after a three-hour flight. A Mirage-2000 trainer from Gwalior took spectacular images of the celestial spectacle from an altitude of 40,000 feet. With weather being clear at the altitudes and coordinates planned by the IAF pilots, both the AN-32 and Mirage-2000 pilots were able to accomplish the mission successfully, he said.

"The mission was a huge success. We got excellent footage of the eclipse. This was made possible by the perfect planning and execution by the IAF pilots," said Dr.Vinay B. Kamble, Director, Vigyan Prasar while addressing media persons at Agra airbase after the flight.

The AN-32 mission was flown at 25,000 feet. The aircraft flew a south-westerly course from abeam Khajuraho, descending and aligning along the central axis of the eclipse. The Mirage-2000 fighter flew at an altitude of 42,000 feet bisecting the central axis in a north-south direction to film the eclipse.

"Since flying with the ramp open involves depressurisation, inhaling of oxygen separately becomes absolutely necessary at that altitude. We flew a practise mission to train everyone for the sortie", explained Wing Commander D Singh, captain of the flight. "Ensuring the Sun at six-o-clock position at the correct angle for cameras to be able to catch the phenomenon demanded a high degree of accuracy in flying," he added, satisfied with the results.

As the eclipse progressed towards the totality phase, darkness descended across the morning sky metamorphosing rapidly from bright daylight to the twilight zone, transiting to dark phase. The pilots switched on rheostats illuminating their instrument panel for a brief phase of night flying before resuming daylight flying after the total solar eclipse. For those who witnessed the rare spectacle in air, the experience was truly ethereal, the spokesman added.

At the Nehru Planetarium here, two telescopes were set up and pictures from them were projected on a large screen.

The path of eclipse began in India and crossed through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and China.


The Indian cities through which the shadow of total eclipse passed are Surat, Ujjain, Indore, Bhopal, Sagar, Jabalpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Gaya, Patna, Bhagalpur, New Jalpaigudi, Guwahati and Dibrugarh.

While the solar eclipse was visible in 13 Indian cities in totality, only 88 per cent of the eclipse could be seen in the national capital.

The eclipse began at 0528 hours and ended at 0740 hours and lasted for about four minutes from 0626 to 0630 hours in India. The total eclipse lasted for six minutes and 39 seconds.

For most people who woke up early to watch the eclipse, it was an opportunity of a lifetime, given the fact that the next total solar eclipse in India will be on March 20 in 2034. An annular solar eclipse will occur on January 15 next year.

Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE), a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) working to popularise science and astronomy, had also organised a special flight to watch the eclipse in collaboration with Cox and Kings India, a well-known travel agency. Technical guidance for the special flight was given by Eclipse Chasers Athanaeum, a wing of the NGO.

The NGO had chartered an aircraft, a Boeing 737-700 from JetLite, for the three-hour flight from New Delhi to Gaya in Bihar, where it hovered for some time while the eclipse was on.

The flight had 72 passengers who had paid Rs 79,000 for the 21 sunside window seats, Rs 67,000 for the middle seats, Rs 59,000 for the aisle seats and Rs 29,000 for the earth-side seats.

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India, US sign 3 pacts, including on defence end-user monitoring arrangements

India and the US on Monday signed three agreements, including one on the end-use monitoring arrangements for defence equipment and technology that India procures from the US.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meeting the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meeting the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
India and the United States today signed three important agreements, including one on the end-use monitoring arrangements that will henceforth be referred to in letters of acceptance for Indian procurement of US defence technology and equipment.

The other two pacts are a Technical Safeguards Agreement which will permit the launch of civil or non-commercial satellites containing US components on Indian space launch vehicles and on the creation of a Science and Technology Endowment Board.

"The new dialogues that Secretary Clinton and I announce today - on health, education, science & technology and women’s empowerment – will impact positively on areas of vital interest and concern to the daily lives of our two peoples," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said at a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after delegation level talks between the two sides.

"We have issued a Joint Statement on all these initiatives. A fact sheet on the new bilateral dialogue architecture has also been put out. We will now have frequent high level contacts to reinforce these dialogues," Mr Krishna said.

At the outset, Mr Krishna pointed out that Ms Clinton was no stranger to India and that her deep and abiding interest and commitment to India had helped shape the US policy of close engagement with India.

He recalled that Ms Clinton not only had a key role in the founding of the India Caucus in the US Congress, the largest congressional grouping focused on strengthening relations with any foreign country, but has also been a staunch and sincere advocate of the strengthening of US-India relations.

"She was one of the key supporters of the historic agreement between our two countries on Civil Nuclear Cooperation which was realized through a bipartisan effort in the US Congress and the desire to add qualitative substance to the US-India relationship," he said.

Mr Krishna said their talks covered a comprehensive agenda encompassing the full range of global and bilateral issues of mutual concern and interest.

"India and the United States of America regard each other as global partners. Our two democracies can play a leading and constructive role on the global level in addressing the urgent global challenges of our times. The agenda of our dialogue today reflects this global dimension of our partnership. With that vision to guide our path, we have created new forums for meaningful dialogue on climate change, disarmament and non-proliferation. We also recognize the importance of ensuring that the steps planned to revive the global economy should safeguard the priorities of sustainable development and the goals of poverty alleviation in the developing world. Ours is a shared commitment to a rule-based multilateral trading system and we will continue to speak out against protectionism. Cooperation, trade and investment between India and the United States can play a constructive role in the revival of the world economy," he said.

The Minister said he and Ms Clinton had also held useful discussions on the situation in the region. "In our discussions today, she and I also reaffirmed the unequivocal commitment of both our countries to resist the threats to our two democracies from the scourge of terrorism," he said.

He said that, in the bilateral partnership, he and Ms Clinton had focussed on the new agenda for US-India v. 3.0, "in which we will build on the excellent economic and political partnerships that already exist, redefine some of our dialogues to make them more result oriented and create new dialogues for achieving shared objectives in areas of mutual interest."

He said he was confident that the initiatives that the two governments would work on would benefit both their peoples.

The meeting between the two leaders came at the end of a hectic five-day trip to India for Ms Clinton during which she spent two days in Mumbai and met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani during the day.

Ms Clinton said she had conveyed to Dr Singh an invitation from US President Barack Obama to visit Washington on November 24, which will be the first state visit by any world leader to the US after the new administration took over in January this year.

The Joint Statement said Mr Krishna and Ms Clinton had committed themselves to building an enhanced India-US strategic partnership that seeks to advance solutions to the defining challenges of our time.
Secretary Clinton addresses an audience of 700 students, faculty and guests at the Convention Hall in the Old Vice Regal Lodge, University of Delhi.
Secretary Clinton addresses an audience of 700 students, faculty and guests at the Convention Hall in the Old Vice Regal Lodge, University of Delhi.

They agreed to strengthen the existing bilateral relationships and mechanisms for cooperation between the two governments while leveraging the strong foundation of economic and social linkages between the people, private sectors, and institutions of the two countries.

"Recognizing the new heights achieved in the India - U.S. relationship over the last two Indian and U.S. Administrations, they committed to pursuing a third and transformative phase of the relationship that will enhance global prosperity and stability in the 21st century," it said.

The statement said Mr Krishna and Ms Clinton would chair an "India-US Strategic Dialogue" that will meet once annually in alternate capitals and focus on a wide range of bilateral, global, and regional issues of shared interest and common concern, continuing programmes currently under implementation and taking mutually beneficial initiatives that complement Indian and U.S. development, security and economic interests.

Mr Krishna will travel to Washington for the first round of the Dialogue in the coming year, it said.

The two leaders reaffirmed the commitment of both governments to build on recent increased coordination in counter-terrorism. Ms Clinton invited Home Minister P Chidambaram to visit Washington in the near future. They also reaffirmed their commitment to early adoption of a UN Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism.

The two sides reiterated the commitment of both governments to pursue mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of defence.

The statement said India and the US shared a vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and the two leaders agreed to move ahead in the Conference on Disarmament towards a non-discriminatory, internationally and effectively verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.

"India and the United States will also cooperate to prevent nuclear terrorism and address the challenges of global nuclear proliferation. A high-level bilateral dialogue will be established to enhance cooperation on these issues," it said.

The two countries said they would, building on the success of the India-US Civil Nuclear Initiative, begin tomorrow consultations on reprocessing arrangements and procedures, as provided in Article 6 (iii) of the 123 Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation between India and the United States.

Ms Clinton affirmed that multilateral organizations and groupings should reflect the world of the 21st century in order to maintain long-term credibility, relevance and effectiveness. Both leaders expressed their interest in exchanging views on new configurations of the UN Security Council, the G-8, and the G-20.

Mr Krishna and Ms Clinton reaffirmed the commitment of both Governments to facilitating a pathway forward on the WTO Doha Round.

"They pledged to co-operate to not only preserve the economic synergies between the two countries that have grown over the years, but also to increase and diversify bilateral economic relations and expand trade and investment flows. The two sides noted that negotiations for a Bilateral Investment Treaty would be scheduled in New Delhi in August 2009. They resolved to harness the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of the private sectors of both countries with a newly-configured CEO Forum that will meet later this year," the statement said

The statement talked about expanding cooperation in the area of education, space, science and technology and innovation.

Both sides welcomed India’s participation in the FutureGen Project for the construction of the first commercial scale fully integrated carbon capture and sequestration project and India’s participation in the Integrated Ocean Development Project, an international endeavour for enhancing the understanding of Earth and Ocean dynamics and addressing the challenges of climate change.

The two leaders agreed to continue the agenda and the initiatives of the bilateral High Technology Cooperation Dialogue to facilitate smoother trade in high technology between the two economies reflecting the present strategic nature of the India-U.S. relationship.

It was also agreed that working groups would be formed to focus on new areas of common interest in nano-technology, civil nuclear technology, civil aviation and licensing issues in defence, strategic and civil nuclear trade.

The two sides pledged to intensify collaboration on energy security and climate change. Efforts will focus on increasing energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean energy technologies through the India-U.S. Energy Dialogue and a Global Climate Change Dialogue.

Both sides also agreed to launch a process of bilateral scientific and technological collaboration to support the development, deployment and transfer of transformative and innovative technologies in areas of mutual interest, including solar and other renewable energy, clean coal and energy efficiency, and other relevant areas.

India and the U.S. affirmed their commitment to work together with other countries, including through the Major Economies Forum, for positive results in the UNFCCC Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December 2009.

They agreed to work together on strengthening democracy and capacity building in democratic institutions as co-founders of the UN Democracy Fund. They also agreed to develop a Women’s Empowerment Forum (WEF) to exchange lessons and best practices on women’s empowerment and development and consider ways to empower women in the region and beyond.

"Minister Krishna and Secretary Clinton reaffirmed that the excellent relations between India and the United States rests on the bedrock of kinship, commerce and educational ties between the Indian and American people," the statement added.

The meeting between Ms Clinton and Dr Singh took place at the 7, Race Course Road, the official residence of the Prime Minister, where Ms Clinton reached directly from the Delhi University, where she addressed students and faculty this morning.

Former Indian Ambassador to the US Karan Singh and Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi were present at her meeting with Ms Sonia Gandhi.

Ms Clinton had arrived in Delhi yesterday afternoon on the second leg of a five-day visit to India and drove to the ITC Green Centre in Gurgaon soon after. There she said, in the context of climate change, that the US would not do anything that would limit India's economic progress, which, she felt, was in everyone's interest. At the same time, she said she also believed that there was a way of eliminating poverty while ensuring sustainability.

Ms Clinton, who is accompanied on the visit by US Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern, held talks at the Centre with Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh and Mr Shyam Saran, the former Foreign Secretary who is now the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Climate Change.

At those discussions, Mr Ramesh made it very clear that India was simply not in a position to accept any "legally binding" reduction targets for carbon emission.

Ms Clinton also visited the Indian Agricultural Research Institute here yesterday for discussions with Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and others on enhancing cooperation between the two countries in the agricultural sector.

Ms Clinton had arrived in Mumbai on Thursday night and spent Friday in the metropolis interacting with a broad cross-section of Indian society.

She met staff of the Taj Mahal and the Trident hotels, who had survived the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai and saved the lives of many guests, and interacted with top Indian businessmen. She also visited the Mumbai office of the Ahmedabad-based non-governmental organisation Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) headed by Magsaysay Award winner Ela Bhatt.

She will leave here tomorrow for the second leg of her Asia visit that will take her to Thailand, where apart from bilateral meetings, she will attend the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference and the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phuket.

Before leaving for India, Ms Clinton had said that she would be engaging in a very broad, comprehensive dialogue in Delhi that was the most wide-ranging that had ever been put on the table between the two countries.

"It has six pillars to it, one of which, of course, is foreign policy, strategic challenges, along with other matters, like health and education and agriculture and the economy," she had said in a question-answer session after her Foreign Policy Address to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington last Wednesday.

Ms Clinton had said that India had a tremendous opportunity and a growing responsibility, which it acknowledges, to play not just a regional role, but a global one as well.

"How they choose to define that, we will explore in depth during the course of our discussions. But obviously, there are a number of areas where we would welcome Indian leadership and involvement that are difficult," she had said.

Ms Clinton is the highest-ranking US leader to visit India after the Barack Obama administration assumed office in January. Since then, Dr Singh, who began his second term as Prime Minister in May, has met Mr Obama at multi-lateral events, such as the G-20 Summits in Washington and London, the most recent being the G8/G5 Summits at L'Aquila in Italy last week.

In the run-up to Ms Clinton's visit, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J Burns and National Security Adviser General James L Jones had visited New Delhi in June.

In her Foreign Policy Address, Ms Clinton had outlined six foreign policy approaches that the US would follow, the first of which was to build stronger mechanisms of cooperation with its historic allies, with emerging powers and with multilateral institutions and to pursue that cooperation in a pragmatic and principled way.

She had said that, as part of this approach, the US would put special emphasis on encouraging major and emerging global powers---China, India, Russia and Brazil, as well as Turkey, Indonesia and South Africa---to be full partners in tackling the global agenda.

"I want to underscore the importance of this task, and my personal commitment to it. These states are vital to achieving solutions to the shared problems and advancing our priorities – nonproliferation, counterterrorism, economic growth, climate change, among others. With these states, we will stand firm on our principles even as we seek common ground.

"This week, I will travel to India, where External Affairs Minister Krishna and I will lay out a broad-based agenda that calls for a whole-of-government approach to our bilateral relationship," she had added.

NNN

Clinton meets PM, discusses ways of enhancing strategic partnership between India, US

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here on Monday and is understood to have discussed with him ways of enhancing the strategic partnership between the two countries.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meeting the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meeting the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here today and is understood to have discussed with him ways of enhancing the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Details of their discussions were not immediately available, but it is understood that the two leaders also discussed the fight against terrorism, especially Pakistan's role in this regard and the need for Islamabad to take credible steps to bring those behind the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks to justice and to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure working against India from its territory.

Ms Clinton is understood to have raised the issue of India's willingness to take more steps to reduce carbon emissions and advance the cause of nuclear non-proliferation and to take on greater global responsibilities. The two leaders are also learnt to have talked about areas such as agriculture, education and health in which the two countries are aiming for greater cooperation.

The two leaders are also understood to have talked about the implementation of the India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement, which was signed during the tenure of then US President George W Bush but which the present Barack Obama administration is fully committed to implement.

The meeting took place at the 7, Race Course Road, the official residence of the Prime Minister, where Ms Clinton reached directly from the Delhi University, where she addressed students and faculty this morning.

Later today, Ms Clinton is due to meet Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani and ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi before holding delegation-level talks with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna at Hyderabad House this evening.

The two sides are expected to sign several bilateral agreements at the end of her talks with Mr Krishna.

Ms Clinton had arrived in Delhi yesterday afternoon on the second leg of a five-day visit to India and drove to the ITC Green Centre in Gurgaon soon after. There she said, in the context of climate change, that the US would not do anything that would limit India's economic progress, which, she felt, was in everyone's interest. At the same time, she said she also believed that there was a way of eliminating poverty while ensuring sustainability.

Ms Clinton, who is accompanied on the visit by US Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern, held talks at the Centre with Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh and Mr Shyam Saran, the former Foreign Secretary who is now the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Climate Change.

At those discussions, Mr Ramesh made it very clear that India was simply not in a position to accept any "legally binding" reduction targets for carbon emission.

Ms Clinton also visited the Indian Agricultural Research Institute here yesterday for discussions with Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and others on enhancing cooperation between the two countries in the agricultural sector.
Secretary Clinton greets the crowd at the ITC Green Centre. To her left is Minister for Forests and Environment Jairam Ramesh, to her right (back to camera) Meera Shankar, Indian Ambassador to the U.S. and Timothy J. Roemer, U.S. Ambassador-Designate.
Secretary Clinton greets the crowd at the ITC Green Centre. To her left is Minister for Forests and Environment Jairam Ramesh, to her right (back to camera) Meera Shankar, Indian Ambassador to the U.S. and Timothy J. Roemer, U.S. Ambassador-Designate.

Ms Clinton had arrived in Mumbai on Thursday night and spent Friday in the metropolis interacting with a broad cross-section of Indian society.

She met staff of the Taj Mahal and the Trident hotels, who had survived the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai and saved the lives of many guests, and interacted with top Indian businessmen. She also visited the Mumbai office of the Ahmedabad-based non-governmental organisation Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) headed by Magsaysay Award winner Ela Bhatt.

She will leave here tomorrow for the second leg of her Asia visit that will take her to Thailand, where apart from bilateral meetings, she will attend the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference and the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phuket.

Before leaving for India, Ms Clinton had said that she would be engaging in a very broad, comprehensive dialogue in Delhi that was the most wide-ranging that had ever been put on the table between the two countries.

"It has six pillars to it, one of which, of course, is foreign policy, strategic challenges, along with other matters, like health and education and agriculture and the economy," she had said in a question-answer session after her Foreign Policy Address to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington last Wednesday.

Ms Clinton had said that India had a tremendous opportunity and a growing responsibility, which it acknowledges, to play not just a regional role, but a global one as well.

"How they choose to define that, we will explore in depth during the course of our discussions. But obviously, there are a number of areas where we would welcome Indian leadership and involvement that are difficult," she had said.

Ms Clinton is the highest-ranking US leader to visit India after the Barack Obama administration assumed office in January. Since then, Dr Singh, who began his second term as Prime Minister in May, has met Mr Obama at multi-lateral events, such as the G-20 Summits in Washington and London, the most recent being the G8/G5 Summits at L'Aquila in Italy last week.
Secretary Clinton with Ambassador-Designate Timothy J. Roemer, and Sharad Pawar, Minister of Agriculture; Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, examine wheat samples at the Indian Council for Agricultural Research’s (ICAR) Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in Pusa, New Delhi.
Secretary Clinton with Ambassador-Designate Timothy J. Roemer, and Sharad Pawar, Minister of Agriculture; Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, examine wheat samples at the Indian Council for Agricultural Research’s (ICAR) Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in Pusa, New Delhi.

Dr Singh is expected to visit Washington later this year and Mr Obama is likely to travel to India sometime next year.

In the run-up to Ms Clinton's visit, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J Burns and National Security Adviser General James L Jones had visited New Delhi in June.

In her Foreign Policy Address, Ms Clinton had outlined six foreign policy approaches that the US would follow, the first of which was to build stronger mechanisms of cooperation with its historic allies, with emerging powers and with multilateral institutions and to pursue that cooperation in a pragmatic and principled way.

She had said that, as part of this approach, the US would put special emphasis on encouraging major and emerging global powers---China, India, Russia and Brazil, as well as Turkey, Indonesia and South Africa---to be full partners in tackling the global agenda.

"I want to underscore the importance of this task, and my personal commitment to it. These states are vital to achieving solutions to the shared problems and advancing our priorities – nonproliferation, counterterrorism, economic growth, climate change, among others. With these states, we will stand firm on our principles even as we seek common ground.

"This week, I will travel to India, where External Affairs Minister Krishna and I will lay out a broad-based agenda that calls for a whole-of-government approach to our bilateral relationship," she had added.

NNN

Clinton in Delhi, to meet PM, Krishna on Monday

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in Delhi on Sunday on the second leg of a five-day visit to the country, has assured India that the US would not do anything that would limit India's progress.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses Mumbai Consulate General staff at the Crystal Ballroom of the Taj Palace Hotel on Sunday.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses Mumbai Consulate General staff at the Crystal Ballroom of the Taj Palace Hotel on Sunday.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived here today on the second leg of a five-day visit to the country, has assured India that the US would not do anything that would limit India's progress.

Ms Clinton told reporters at the ITC Green Centre in Gurgaon that economic progress in India was in everyone's interest but said she also believed that there was a way of eliminating poverty while ensuring sustainability.

Soon after landing in the capital, Ms Clinton drove to the Centre for a conference on climate change and green technologies.

The Centre is the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building in India, which she described as a "monument to the future". She said the building would become a new monument on India's tourism map just like the Taj Mahal in Agra and the India Gate in Delhi.

Ms Clinton, who is accompanied on the visit by the US Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern, was shown around the Centre by Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh.

She also held discussions on climate change with Mr Ramesh and Mr Shyam Saran, the former Foreign Secretary who is now the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Climate Change.

Speaking at the function, Mr Ramesh said India was very conscious of the local impacts of climate change within the country and would never allow its per capita emissions to exceed that of the developed countries.

He said India's position in the on-going climate change agreement negotiations was clear, credible and consistent.

"Embedded in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Bali Action Plan, we are fully alive to our global responsibilities as well. We have done detailed modeling, the results of which are being released very soon," he said.

"The results are unambiguous. Even with 8-9% GDP growth every year for the next decade or two, our per capita emissions will be well below that of developed country averages," he assured.

"There is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have among the lowest emissions per capita, face to actually reduce emissions," he said. He said that, as if this pressure were not enough, India was also facing the threat of carbon tariffs on its exports to countries such as the US.

Mr Ramesh said India was ensuring that its economic growth path was ecologically sustainable, and added that he saw a critical role for international technology cooperation in enabling countries like India to adapt to climate change.

He said that, in collaboration with the UN, India would host an International Conference on Climate Change and Technology on October 22-23. He hoped the New Delhi Statement on Technology and Climate Change, which would come out of the conference, would be reflected in the Copenhagen Agreement to be finalised at the end of this year.

He said the National Action Plan on Climate Chang was driven primarily by India's adaptation imperatives but did not neglect what it should do on its own for mitigation.

The minister said the plan was being converted into a large number of specific programmes and projects.

"All this is in the public domain. The energy sector is key. Our focus is on making technology leaps to ensure lower emissions. Our biggest power utility, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has the second lowest carbon dioxide intensity in the world—that is, emissions per megawatt of power generated. Our energy consumption per unit of GDP has been falling significantly," he said.

He also pointed out that India was a world leader in fast breeder reactor technology. He said the country was also establishing a 182 MW commercial power plant based on indigenously- developed Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology. He said the country had launched a major initiative on extracting carbon dioxide from flue gases for propagating algae in bioreactors.

Mr Ramesh said India was also embarking on $ 3 billion programme to regenerate its natural forests that already cover some 165 million acres – roughly the size of Texas. He said this was one of the largest carbon sinks in the world that would only grow in size and impact. In this connection, he sought US support for India’s proposals to the UNFCCC and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries, REDD+, that is to acknowledge and reward countries who are in the business of actually expanding forest cover.

The minister said there were numerous opportunities for joint research, development, demonstration and dissemination projects. He proposed collaboration in the area of environmental planning, regulation and management.

Mr Ramesh said India was planning to establish its own independent, professional, science-based national environmental protection authority.

"We are planning to set up a National Green Tribunal as some sort of an environmental court. I am convinced that we have much to learn from your long experience in this area. We can also collaborate in the on-going renewal of our vast forestry and biodiversity science and management establishment," he said.

He said building institutional capacity for continuing research on climate change and its impacts was another area where the countries could collaborate.

Ms Clinton also visited the Indian Agricultural Reseach Institute here for discussions on enhancing cooperation between the two countries in the agricultural sector.

Ms Clinton had arrived in Mumbai on Thursday night at the start of a visit that is aimed at discussing the structure and elemetns of an enhanced strategic partnership between the two countries.

Her engagements in the metropolis yesterday were designed to enable her to interact with a broad cross-section of Indian society. She met staff of the Taj Mahal and the Trident hotels, who had survived the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai and saved the lives of many guests, and interacted with top Indian businessmen. She also visited the Mumbai office of the Ahmedabad-based non-governmental organisation Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) headed by Magsaysay Award winner Ela Bhatt.

In Delhi, Ms Clinton will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and hold talks with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna. She will also meet United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani. She will also interact with students at the Delhi University and meet businessmen and scientists.

She will leave New Delhi on July 21 for the second leg of her Asia visit that will take her to Thailand, where apart from bilateral meetings, she will attend the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference and the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phuket.

Before leaving for India, Ms Clinton had said that she would be engaging in a very broad, comprehensive dialogue in Delhi that was the most wide-ranging that had ever been put on the table between the two countries.

"It has six pillars to it, one of which, of course, is foreign policy, strategic challenges, along with other matters, like health and education and agriculture and the economy," she had said in a question-answer session after her Foreign Policy Address to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington last Wednesday.

Ms Clinton had said that India had a tremendous opportunity and a growing responsibility, which it acknowledges, to play not just a regional role, but a global one as well.

"How they choose to define that, we will explore in depth during the course of our discussions. But obviously, there are a number of areas where we would welcome Indian leadership and involvement that are difficult," she had said.

Ms Clinton is the highest-ranking US leader to visit India after the Barack Obama administration assumed office in January. Since then, Dr Singh, who began his second term as Prime Minister in May, has met Mr Obama at multi-lateral events, such as the G-20 Summits in Washington and London, the most recent being the G8/G5 Summits at L'Aquila in Italy last week.

Dr Singh is expected to visit Washington later this year and Mr Obama is likely to travel to India sometime next year.

In the run-up to Ms Clinton's visit, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J Burns and National Security Adviser General James L Jones had visited New Delhi in June.

In her Foreign Policy Address, Ms Clinton had outlined six foreign policy approaches that the US would follow, the first of which was to build stronger mechanisms of cooperation with its historic allies, with emerging powers and with multilateral institutions and to pursue that cooperation in a pragmatic and principled way.

She had said that, as part of this approach, the US would put special emphasis on encouraging major and emerging global powers---China, India, Russia and Brazil, as well as Turkey, Indonesia and South Africa---to be full partners in tackling the global agenda.

"I want to underscore the importance of this task, and my personal commitment to it. These states are vital to achieving solutions to the shared problems and advancing our priorities – nonproliferation, counterterrorism, economic growth, climate change, among others. With these states, we will stand firm on our principles even as we seek common ground.

"This week, I will travel to India, where External Affairs Minister Krishna and I will lay out a broad-based agenda that calls for a whole-of-government approach to our bilateral relationship," she had added.

NNN

Clinton in Mumbai, says no US pressure on India, Pakistan to resume talks

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday that Washington fully supported India's stand on terrorism and was not putting any pressure on it to resume dialogue with Pakistan.

Secretary Clinton meets with Hemant Oberoi, a chef at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and a survivor of the Mumbai November 2008 terror attack.
Secretary Clinton meets with Hemant Oberoi, a chef at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and a survivor of the Mumbai November 2008 terror attack.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today said Washington fully supported India's stand on terrorism and was not putting any pressure on it to resume dialogue with Pakistan.

She said the decision on re-starting the dialogue was something that the two sovereign governments of India and Pakistan had to take for themselves.

Ms Clinton arrived in the metropolis late last night at the start of a five-day visit aimed at discussing the structure and elements of an enhanced strategic partnership between the two countries.

Her engagements in Mumbai today were designed to enable her to interact with a broad cross-section of Indian society.

Among other things, she attended a function at the historicTaj Mahal hotel, where she is staying, to commemorate the victims of the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on the Taj and the Trident hotels as well as at the Chhatrapati Shivaji railway terminus and other places in Mumbai.

She met the staff of the two hotels who had survived the attacks and risked their lives to save the guests, even as many of their colleagues were gunned down by the terrorists. She told them that she was deeply touched to meet them.

Among those she met was Taj General manager Karambir Kang, who lost his wife and two sons to the terrorists' bullets in the attack.

She recalled that Americans had stood by Indians in the aftermath of the 26/11 just as Indians had stood by Americans after the 9/11 attacks on New York.

She wrote a tribute in the memorial book at the function:

"Americans share a solidarity with this city and nation.

Both our people have experienced the senseless and searing effects of violent extremism. And both can be grateful and proud of the heroism of brave men and women whose courage saved lives and prevented greater harm on 26/11 and 9/11. Now it is up to all nations and people who seek peace and progress to work together. Let us rid the world of hatred and extremism that produces such nihilistic violence. Our future deserves no less.

With profound sympathy and resolve.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signs the November 26, 2008 memorial book at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai. Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group (L), and Timothy J. Roemer, U.S. Ambassador-Designate to India (R), stand in the background.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signs the November 26, 2008 memorial book at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai. Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group (L), and Timothy J. Roemer, U.S. Ambassador-Designate to India (R), stand in the background.

Hillary Rodham Clinton"

More than 160 people were killed in the attacks, which India has blamed on elements based in Pakistan.

Ms Clinton also had a meeting with some of the country's leading businessmen and spent some time at the Mumbai office of the Ahmedabad-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) and interacted with its members and its founder, Magsaysay Award winner Ela Bhatt.

Ms Bhatt and Ms Clinton are co-chairpersons of the Global Women's Trade Finance Council set up in New York in 2007. Ms Bhatt updated her on the work done by the Council. Ms Clinton had visited SEWA's headquarters in Ahmedabad when she had visited India as First Lady.

Those present at her meeting with businessmen included Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata, Reliance Industries Limited Chairman Mukesh Ambani, Ms Swati Piramal of the Piramal Group, Ms Sudha Murthy, wife of Infosys Chairman N R Narayana Murthy, ICICI Bank Managind Director & CEO Chanda Kochhar and State Bank of India Chairman O P Bhatt.

Tomorrow, Ms Clinton will arrive in the capital, where she is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani, businessmen, scientists and youth.

Ms Clinton will leave New Delhi on July 21 for the second leg of her Asia visit that will take her to Thailand, where apart from bilateral meetings, she will attend the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference and the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phuket.

At the interaction with the media, Ms Clinton said she and President Barack Obama believed that the relationship between India and the US was entering a new and even more promising era.

"Over the next few days, I will be working on behalf of President Obama and the American people to strengthen the important strategic relationship between the United States and India for the 21st century. I will be meeting with government officials in New Delhi to broaden and deepen our efforts to work more effectively together on issues ranging from economic growth and development, to climate change, to education and healthcare, to nonproliferation and counterterrorism," she said.

Ms Clinton said US was willing to help in any way in could in the alleviation of poverty in India, which was a central goal of the Manmohan Singh government and the people of the country.

"Expanded dialogue between our governments is essential and exciting. But the strength of this partnership ultimately rests on the deep and enduring ties between the Indian and the American people," she said.

"In a speech this week in Washington, I said the problems of the 21st century demand a new mindset and a willingness to create partnerships with government, but also beyond government, with NGOs, with businesses, with the people themselves. The world's problems are too complex for anything less," she said.

"We face a lot of challenges, but I am convinced that together, we are more than ready to meet those challenges, sharing our common interests, our common values, and a common stake in the 21st century. If we are now prepared to turn our common interests and cooperative actions, and I believe we are, then we will succeed not only for the Indian and American people, but for the world that we hope to create for our children. Thank you all very much," he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with India's business leaders in Mumbai, India July 18, 2009. From left to right: Jamshyd N. Godrej, Chairman of the Board of Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Company Limited; Timothy J. Roemer, U.S. Ambassador-Designate to India; Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group; Secretary Clinton; Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries; Swati Piramal, Director of Strategic Alliance and Communication at Piramal Healthcare Ltd.; Robert O. Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia; O.P. Bhatt, Chairman of the State Bank of India. [State Department photo]
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with India's business leaders in Mumbai, India July 18, 2009. From left to right: Jamshyd N. Godrej, Chairman of the Board of Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Company Limited; Timothy J. Roemer, U.S. Ambassador-Designate to India; Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group; Secretary Clinton; Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries; Swati Piramal, Director of Strategic Alliance and Communication at Piramal Healthcare Ltd.; Robert O. Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia; O.P. Bhatt, Chairman of the State Bank of India. [State Department photo]

To a question about the resumption of talks between India and Pakistan, she said, "I think that India is a sovereign nation fully capable and prepared to protect her own interests, to stand up for the rights and security of her own people. And we are very supportive of the steps that India has taken to try to stand against terrorism.

"Clearly, any decision that is made between the governments of India and Pakistan to begin talking together to explore the very difficult issues between them is up to those governments. And I think that the United States, as you know, is very supportive of steps that the governments take, but we are not in any way involved in it or promoting any particular position. We respect the sovereignty of the decisions that lie in the hands of the Indian Government," she said.

In response to a question about steps being taken by Pakistan against terrorism, Ms Clinton said, "Well, I believe based on what we have seen in the last six months, which is what I'm speaking - based upon, there has been a much greater effort and commitment that is not only at the governmental level, but much more free society to take on the terrorists. And I believe that there is a concerted effort that we can look to and see the results from.

"It is too early to tell the outcome of this commitment that we see coming from Pakistan. I also believe that in the next few days, there will be a greater awareness of whether or not there will be a commitment to bring the Mumbai terrorists to heal and hopefully to justice.

"You raised the questions about other terrorist organizations that are focused on India. Clearly, we believe that they have to be rooted out, that they must be defeated and dismantled, and we have made that very clear and we will continue to do so," she said.

About the India-Pakistan dialogue, she said it was something entirely between the two countries.

"There has to be a very clear understanding that we respect the right of India to make decisions that India decides are in the best interests of the Indian people. I'm focused on the India-West relationship. That is the relationship that we can influence and that we are looking forward to working on. And clearly, we will be speaking with our Indian counterparts over the next several days about how better to tackle the threat of terrorism.
SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association) Vice President and artisan Gauriben Ramabhai presents an embroidered door hanging made by her mother 80 years ago, to Secretary Clinton, in acknowledgement of her friendship and support for SEWA over the years.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with India's business leaders in Mumbai, India July 18, 2009. FroSEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association) Vice President and artisan Gauriben Ramabhai presents an embroidered door hanging made by her mother 80 years ago, to Secretary Clinton, in acknowledgement of her friendship and support for SEWA over the years.

So we have a great sense of solidarity and sympathy, having gone through what we did on 9/11. We know how important - we are fighting wars to end the threat of terrorism against us, our friends and allies around the world. So we are very committed to working with India to make sure that together, we are effective. There are different ways of doing that. Some, we will do together. Some, India will decide how best to do on their own.

"But the bottom line for me is that our government is committed in the fight against terrorism. And we expect everyone with whom we have relations and who we see as being part of a future world that we take in what we're building together to take strong action to prevent terrorism from taking root on their soil, to making sure that terrorists are not trained and deployed. And we believe that around the world, not with any one particular country, but every one. And that's what we are working toward, and we will work in whatever way is determined to be useful from an Indian perspective to be of service," she said.

To a question about climate change and the discussions she had on the subject at her meeting with businessmen, Ms Clinton said there was no inherent contradiction between poverty eradication and moving toward a low-carbon economy.

"The United States wants to see India continue to progress in its development in lifting millions and millions of more people out of poverty and providing greater opportunity for people to pursue their own dreams. And that is something that they would not expect any country to turn away from.

"Our point is very simple: That we acknowledge, now with President Obama, that we have made mistakes - the United States - and we, along with other developed countries, have contributed most significantly to the problems that we face with climate change. We are hoping that a great country like India will not make the same mistakes. And just as India went, from a few years ago, having very few telephones to now having more than 500 million mostly cell phones by leapfrogging over the infrastructure that we built for telephone service, we believe India is innovative and entrepreneurial enough to figure out how to deal with climate change while continuing to lift people out of poverty and develop at a rapid rate.

"Obviously, these decisions are up to the people of India, but the private sector, based on our conversations, is looking for economic opportunities in clean energy and looking for ways to figure out how to move toward low-carbon energy production. So we're going to be engaged in these conversations. Todd Stern, as you know, our Climate Change Envoy, is here with me. He'll be having a number of in-depth discussions with people in both the private and the public sector in the next several days. So we are well aware of the challenges that India faces, but we think that there are some very creative approaches to this that we're sharing," she said.

A US Embassy press release said Ms Clinton's visit was not only being covered by the traditional media but also by the online media community.
Secretary Clinton and Bollywood Star Aamir Khan discuss education and community service with students at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai.
Secretary Clinton and Bollywood Star Aamir Khan discuss education and community service with students at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai.

It said her engagements would be covered on social networking sites such as "Twitter," "Flickr," and "Facebook." The "Americagov" Twitter feed will be following her during her activities in Mumbai and New Delhi, it said.

According to the release, Ms Clinton's fans and participants at all of her India events will be using the "Twitter" hash tag address #HillaryIndia to follow and comment on the issues addressed during her visit. They will also be posting both professional and cell-phone photos on "Flickr" using the same tag, #HillaryIndia.

It said Ms Clinton could be followed on Facebook.

"A big fan of new media social networking tools, Secretary Clinton encourages friends around the world to use new media to discuss important issues and share photos of her India activities," it added.

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Indian, Pakistani PMs meet in Egypt, discuss terror

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani at Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt today and is understood to have sought a firm assurance that those responsible for tlast November's terror attacks on Mumbai would be brought to justice.

A file photo of Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilan meeting with PM Manmohan Singh.
A file photo of Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilan meeting with PM Manmohan Singh.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani on the margins of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt today and is understood to have sought a firm assurance from him that those responsible for the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai would be brought to justice.

Dr Singh is also understood to have looked for a commitment from Mr Gilani that credible action would be taken by Islamabad to dismantle the terrorist groups and infrastructure working against India from Pakistani territory.

The meeting was primarily aimed at assessing the steps that Pakistan claims that it has taken against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks.

More than 160 people were killed in the attacks carried out by ten gunmen and India has said that the men came from Pakistan and that the conspiracy was hatched in that country.

The meeting between the two Prime Ministers was preceded by two rounds of meetings between Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir at Sharm el Sheikh on Tuesday night and Wednesday. Mr Menon also met Mr Gilani yesterday to prepare for today's meeting.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi were present when the two Prime Ministers began their meeting.

There was some speculation that the two Prime Ministers might make a joint statement after the talks, but the Indian side has indicated that Dr Singh might address only the Indian media on the outcome of the meeting.

Ahead of the meeting between the Foreign Secretaries, the Pakistan government had, last Saturday, handed over to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad a fresh dossier on the progress made in its investigations into the Mumbai terror attacks.

Today's meeting between the two Prime Ministers is a follow-up of the interaction between Dr Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari at Yekaterinburg, Russia, on June 16 on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit.

The leaders had asked their Foreign Secretaries to meet to specifically discuss the steps taken by Pakistan to bring those behind the November 26, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai to justice and to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan aimed at India.

They had also announced that they would meet again at Sharm el Sheikh during the NAM Summit.


The meeting in Yekaterinburg was the first between Dr Singh and Mr Zardari after the Mumbai attacks. India has repeatedly said that it could not resume its Composite Dialogue with Pakistan unless it took concrete action to bring to justice those behind the attacks and dismantled the terrorist infrastructure on Pakistani soil.

At their meeting in Russia, Dr Singh told Mr Zardari that the talks could resume only if Pakistan took credible action in this regard.

After returning to Islamabad from Russia, Mr Zardari let it be known that he would not be attending the NAM Summit. Mr Zilani is leading the Pakistani delegation to the Summit.

On his flight back home last Friday from the G8/G5 Summits in Italy, the Prime Minister sought to assuage public opinion in Pakistan by clarifying that he had not intended to hurt Mr Zardari's feelings in any way when he had, at their meeting in Yekaterinburg, conveyed to him India's views rather bluntly.

Dr Singh had conveyed to him the full extent of India's strong sentiments on the issue and made it very clear that his limited mandate for that meeting was to tell him that Pakistani territory should not be used to mount terror attacks against India.

The remarks were made even as mediapersons were still in the room for the photo-opportunity and were taking pictures of the two leaders.

"Let me say that, what I had said to Zardari Sahib, I had not intended to say that in the presence of all the media. I simply forgot that the media were present there. It was not my intention in any way to hurt Zardari Sahib's feelings," the Prime Minister had told journalists accompanying him on that trip.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that India would have to work with its neighbours to bring about peace and amity in South Asia if it were to realise its development ambitions and its place in the comity of nations.

He has also said that India was willing to walk more than half the distance to normalise its relations with Pakistan if the latter took credible action to deal with terrorist elements directing their energy to disrupt and destabilise India's economy and polity.

Apart from Mr Gilani, Dr Singh also held bilateral meetings with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet on the sidelines of the summit.

He also held discussions with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who took over as chairman of NAM during the summit.

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PM arrives in France to build upon strategic partnership

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached Paris on Monday night on a two-day visit during which he would seek to build upon the close and wide-ranging strategic partnership between India and France.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talking to the media on his arrival at Orly airport in Paris on Monday. His wife, Gursharan Kaur, and the Indian Ambassador to France, Ranjan Mathai can be seen in the background.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talking to the media on his arrival at Orly airport in Paris on Monday. His wife, Gursharan Kaur, and the Indian Ambassador to France, Ranjan Mathai can be seen in the background.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached Paris last night on a two-day visit during which he would seek to build upon the close and wide-ranging strategic partnership between India and France.

Dr Singh was received on arrival at the Orly airport by French Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, Indian Ambassador to France Ranjan Mathai and other senior Indian and French officials.

During his stay in Paris, Dr Singh will be the Guest of Honour at the French National Day celebrations in Paris today.

In a departure statement issued yesterday ahead of his five-day visit that will also take him to Egypt, Dr Singh had pointed out that India's relations with France encompassed a large number of areas and had served the country's national interests well.

Dr Singh will leave later today for Egypt, where he will attend the 15th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit, being held on July 15-16 at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh and meet his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani on the margins of the event.

The Prime Minister had said that the invitation extended by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to him to participate as the Chief Guest at the National Day celebrations of France was an honour for the people of India.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the French Justice Minister Alliot Marrie at Orly Airport in Paris on Monday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the French Justice Minister Alliot Marrie at Orly Airport in Paris on Monday.

While in Paris, Dr Singh will hold talks with Mr Sarkozy, who will host a lunch in his honour.

"We would like to build upon our partnership in the areas of trade and investment, high technology, space, nuclear energy, defence, education, culture, tourism and scientific research and development," the Prime Minister said.

An Indian contingent, representing all three services of the Armed Forces, will participate in the military parade as part of the French National Day celebrations.

India and France have been exchanging visits at the highest level regularly. Dr Singh last visited France in September last year for the India-European Union (EU) Summit in Marseilles, followed by the India-France Summit in Paris. Last year, Mr Sarkozy was the Guest of Honour at India's Republic Day celebrations.

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PM seeks to build on strategic partnership with France

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Monday his visit to Paris would seek to build upon the close and wide-ranging strategic partnership between India and France.

PM Manmohan Singh leaving for Sharm el Sheikh from L'Aquila, Italy.
PM Manmohan Singh leaving for Sharm el Sheikh from L'Aquila, Italy.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said his two-day visit to Paris from today would seek to build upon the close and wide-ranging strategic partnership between India and France.

In a departure statement issued ahead of his four-day visit, that will also take him to Egypt, Dr Singh pointed out that India's relations with France encompassed a large number of areas and had served the country's national interests well.

During his visit, Dr Singh will be the Guest of Honour at the French National Day celebrations in Paris tomorrow, attend the 15th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit at Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh and meet his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani on the margins of the event.

The Prime Minister said the invitation extended by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to him to participate as the Chief Guest at the National Day celebrations of France was an honour for the people of India.

While in Paris, Dr Singh will hold talks with Mr Sarkozy, who will host a lunch in his honour.

"We would like to build upon our partnership in the areas of trade and investment, high technology, space, nuclear energy, defence, education, culture, tourism and scientific research and development," the Prime Minister said.

An Indian contingent, representing all three services of the Armed Forces, will participate in the military parade as part of the French National Day celebrations.

India and France have been exchanging visits at the highest level regularly. Dr Singh last visited France in September last year for the India-European Union (EU) Summit in Marseilles, followed by the India-France Summit in Paris. Last year, Mr Sarkozy was the Guest of Honour at India's Republic Day celebrations.

Dr Singh will fly to Sharm el Sheikh tomorrow itself for the July 15-16 NAM Summit that will be chaired by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

He said non-alignment had been the bedrock of India's foreign policy since it was enunciated by the country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

"Non-alignment remains an article of faith for us. In the post-Cold War era, when the world is no longer divided into two military blocs, the Non-aligned Movement has a renewed role to play in the emerging world order," he said.

According to him, the diversity and universality of NAM offered the movement a unique opportunity to address the challenges of today.

"India will play its part in helping NAM to regain its moral high ground to address issues which are of direct concern and relevance to developing countries such as sustainable development, climate change, food security, energy security, terrorism and reform of the architecture of international governance," he said.

Dr Singh said that, apart from the Pakistani Prime Minister, he would also have bilateral meetings with leaders of Egypt, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, among others, at Sharm el Sheikh.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and senior officials will form part of the Prime Minister's delegation to the Summit.

The themes of the 15th Summit are: International Solidarity for Peace and Development, and the Current Economic & Financial Crisis.

In accordance with NAM practice, the Summit would focus in comprehensive manner on global, regional and sub-regional issues as well as issues relating to development and human rights and on social issues, too, Mr Vivek Katju, Special Secretary (International Organisations) in the MEA, said last week while briefing journalists on the visit.

NAM Foreign Ministers will meet at Sharm el Sheikh for two days from today to prepare for the Summit. Mr Krishna will participate in this meeting. There will be a meeting of the NAM Committee on Palestine today, at which Mr Krishna will make a statement.

There will also be a NAM First Ladies' Summit that will be held at the initiative of hosts Egypt. Dr Singh's wife, Mrs Gursharan Kaur, will participate in this meeting, which will be on the theme, "Women in Crisis Management---Perspectives and Challenges, Best Practices and Lessons Learned".

Mr Katju said the meeting would be anchored by the Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement and will focus on the role of women in the context of the global economic and food, health and humanitarian crises.

Heads of UN agencies such as the Food and Agricultural Organisation, the World Food Programme, the World Health Organisation and the International Telecommunication Union are expected to make brief statements at the First Ladies' Summit. Mrs Gursharan Kaur will make a statement during the meeting.

Mr Katju said NAM stood for principles which India has always espoused and pursued in international affairs: sovereign equality of states; respect for territorial integrity, a peaceful, equitable and just world order; and the progress of developing countries through socio-economic development.

"India’s commitment to NAM is firm and abiding. As in the past, India will continue to play active role in the movement," Mr Katju added.

The meeting with Mr Gilani at Sharm el Sheikh will be a follow-up of the interaction Dr Singh had on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Yekaterinburg, Russia, with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on June 16.

That was the first interaction between the two leaders after the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai, which claimed more than 160 lives and which India blamed on elements based in Pakistan.

India has said that it could not resume its Composite Dialogue with Pakistan unless it took concrete action to bring to justice those behind the Mumbai attacks and also to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure on Pakistani soil that is used against India.

At their meeting in Russia, Dr Singh told Mr Zardari that the talks could resume only if Pakistan took credible action in this regard. The two leaders decided that their Foreign Secretaries would meet before the NAM Summit to take stock of the action that Pakistan has taken on this front. They had also agreed to meet again at Sharm el Sheikh to consider the report of their Foreign Secretaries.

After returning home from Russia, Mr Zardari let it be known that he would not be attending the NAM Summit, and it is now expected that Dr Singh would meet Mr Gilani at Sharm el Sheikh.

The meeting of the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries is also likely to take place at Sharm el Sheikh, sources said.

On his flight back home last Friday from the G8/G5 Summits in Italy, the Prime Minister sought to assuage public opinion in Pakistan by clarifying that he had not intended to hurt Mr Zardari's feelings in any way when he had, at their meeting in Yekaterinburg, conveyed to him India's views rather bluntly.

Dr Singh had conveyed to him the full extent of India's strong sentiments on the issue and made it very clear that his limited mandate for that meeting was to tell him that Pakistani territory should not be used to mount terror attacks against India.

The remarks were made even as mediapersons were still in the room for the photo-opportunity and even as they were still taking pictures of the two leaders.

"Let me say that, what I had said to Zardari Sahib, I had not intended to say that in the presence of all the media. I simply forgot that the media were present there. It was not my intention in any way to hurt Zardari Sahib's feelings," the Prime Minister told journalists on his aircraft.

"I have often said India and Pakistan are close neighbours, we can choose our friends but we have no choice with regard to our neighbours," he said.

The Prime Minister said he believed that India would have to work with its neighbours to bring about peace and amity in South Asia if it were to realise its development ambitions and its place in the comity of nations.

"And we will do all that is necessary to resolve all outstanding issues that have bedevilled India’s relations with Pakistan. But it requires credible action on the part of Pakistan to deal with terrorist elements directing their energy to disrupt and destabilize our economy and polity," he said.

"So I look forward to the meeting with Prime Minister Gilani for an exchange of views and I do hope that out of that meeting we will have a renewed reaffirmation on the part of Pakistan that they will bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai massacre to justice, that they will not allow Pakistani territory to be used for terrorist acts directed against our country. If they do that we are willing to walk more than half the distance to normalize our relations," he said.

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G8/G5 to work together on global challenges, improving governance

The G-8 and G-5 have committed themselves to work together on global challenges and to improve international governance through a genuine partnership.

The G8-G5 leaders posing for a family photo.
The G8-G5 leaders posing for a family photo.
Leaders of the Group of Eight and the Group of Five countries have committed themselves to work together on global challenges and to improve international governance through a genuine partnership in the context of a strengthened multilateralism.

In a joint declaration after meeting in the G8 plus G5 plus Egypt format in the Italian town of L'Aquila yesterday, the Heads of State and Government said they would cooperate to ensure that the global economy resumed growth along a balanced, equitable and sustainable path for the benefit of all, especially the most vulnerable.

"We will resist protectionism and promote open markets for trade and investment. We will contribute to ensuring food security and energy security. We will support developing countries in withstanding the impact of the crisis and restoring conditions for their future progress. We share a common vision on development and will mobilise resources to respond to the development emergency and to advance in the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)," the declaration said.

Apart from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who led the Indian delegation to the G8/G5 Summits, the signatories to the declaration are the leaders of Italy, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the President of the European Commission, together with the leaders of Egypt and Sweden, as President of the European Council.

The statement said the ongoing economic and financial crisis had clearly reinforced the need for enhanced international and multilateral cooperation.

"We have acted more forcefully and cooperated more fully than in any earlier economic crisis," it said.

The leaders said they were fully committed to implementing rapidly the decisions of the G-20 Summits in Washington and London, including those to strengthen financial regulation and reform International Financial Institutions (IFIs), and to provide them with adequate resources.

They said it was also important to ensure that developing economies, in particular low income countries, were able to cope with the effects of the crisis.

The declaration noted that, in 2007 at Heiligendamm, the G8+G5 had taken the initiative to begin an equal and enduring partnership on key issues on the global agenda. It said the 13 countries had carried forward their overall dialogue in an open, transparent and constructive manner and had built common understanding and trust.

"This dialogue adds value in the search for shared solutions and complements formal negotiations in multilateral institutions and fora. We will cooperate in a stable and structured manner with a view to reaching a common understanding on key issues to advance the global agenda," it said.

The declaration said the leaders had decided to continue the partnership over the next two years on an equal footing.

"This will be a results-oriented process, focusing on global challenges of common and crucial interest to our countries," it said.

"Building on the results achieved through our dialogue, we aim to reinforce our interactions at all levels, with a view to enhance our collective capacity to contribute to advance the global agenda," it said.

The leaders said they were committed to work together to ensure a green global recovery based on firm and lasting foundations for sustainable, balanced, innovative and inclusive growth in the medium term.

In particular, they pledged to foster a macro-economic environment that supports a robust and balanced resumption of domestic private spending to promote the revival of demand. The statement said such an environment would require rehabilitating banking sectors in some countries, and the resumption of lending on a sound basis.

They said that, while continuing to support their economies with every necessary measure to overcome the crisis, they would also begin to prepare exit strategies from the extraordinary policy measures taken to respond to the crisis, to be adopted once the recovery is assured and to ensure monetary and fiscal sustainability in the medium term.

"We will cooperate in our efforts to support domestic demand and achieve a robust, balanced, inclusive and sustainable global recovery. We will foster and work together to ensure an appropriate adjustment of savings, and investments, according to respective national circumstances," the declaration said.

It said the G8/G5 countries would refrain from competitive devaluations of their currencies and promote a stable and well-functioning international monetary system.

They also pledged to tackle the social dimensions of the crisis, putting people's concerns first.

"We are modernising, reinforcing and increasing the efficiency of social protection policies, including safety nets, health and education. Strengthened and sustainable social protection, supporting employment and enhancing skills, will also help to sustain and rebalance global demand. We will exchange best practices in support of the people who have lost their jobs or who are threatened by unemployment. We will strengthen our capacity for training to adapt to new labour market conditions," it said.

The leaders said they were resolved to continue reforming financial system regulation and supervision to prevent boom and bust cycles.

They said they would work to ensure propriety, integrity and transparency of international economic and financial activity.

"We support an international financial system which fosters global economic and financial stability," the statement said.

The leaders said they would promote higher growth potential through a range of policies in the areas of human capital, research, infrastructure, and promotion and protection of innovation.

"We will put greater emphasis on the development of agricultural and small scale industries to make economic recovery more inclusive and more resilient," they said.

The declaration said the leaders would encourage and facilitate the development, dissemination and mutually agreed transfer of clean, low-carbon technologies, reducing carbon emissions and increasing energy efficiency from production to consumption, thereby improving energy security and access.

"We reconfirm our political will for reaching a comprehensive, fair, effective, agreed outcome, following the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December," it said.

The leaders also promised to continue to reform the International Financial Institutions' mandates, scope and governance, to enhance their relevance, effectiveness, and legitimacy and improve accountability and credibility and to give emerging and developing economies, including the poorest, greater voice and representation.

The declaration said they would promote regular consultations on structural and macroeconomic issues in all appropriate fora.

"Enhanced international dialogue and strengthened coordination will help to build a more stable, equitable and long-lasting global growth model, and so to gradually achieve and sustain a rebalanced global economy," it said.

The reaffirmed their commitment to maintain and promote open markets and reject ll protectionist measures in trade and investment.

"We stress the importance of adhering to the standstill commitment renewed in London to refrain from measures that would introduce barriers to trade and investment and to rectify promptly any such measures. We reaffirm our request that the WTO, together with other international bodies, within their respective mandates, monitor the situation and report publicly on the adherence to these commitments on a quarterly basis," the statement said.

"We, together with the leaders of Australia, Indonesia and Republic of Korea and in the presence of the Director General of the World Trade Organization, are committed to seek an ambitious and balanced conclusion to the Doha Development Round in 2010, consistent with its mandate, building on the progress already made, including with regard to modalities.

"We regard enhancing the transparency and understanding of the negotiating results to date as a necessary means to facilitate the conclusion of an agreement. In order to fill in the remaining gaps in the negotiations as soon as possible, we instruct our Ministers in charge of trade to explore immediately all possible avenues for direct engagement within the WTO and to meet prior to the Pittsburgh Summit," the declaration said.

The leaders said they considered international investment a major source of growth, employment, innovation and development in their countries.

They said they were committed to maximizing the positive impact of investment as a catalyst for sustainable development, including through a further dissemination of Corporate Social Responsibility standards, and to minimizing protectionist responses.

"There is a need for continued discussion on key principles that enhance predictability and stability in the international investment environment and that could serve as the basis for a coherent common framework. Building on the results of this process, we will consider appropriate further steps, involving emerging economies, developing and developed countries, relevant international organizations and other major stakeholders," the statement said.

The leaders said they were alarmed about the serious implications of the global crisis for growth and for poverty eradication in developing countries.

They reaffirmed their commitment to contribute to achieving the MDGs through economic growth and support to peace and security, especially in Africa.

"We received with great concern the estimates of the World Bank and other development institutions regarding the number of people, in particular children, who may perish or fall into poverty as a result. We underscore that climate change severely affects developing countries and is becoming a major threat to their ability to achieve internationally agreed development goals including the MDGs," the declaration said.

The leaders said they were committed to mobilising all resources for development, as they kept engaged to ensure the proper follow-up and implementation of the Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Declaration on Financing for Development.

"We recognize that mobilising financial resources for development and the effective use of all those resources are central to the global partnership for sustainable development. As part of these overall efforts, the G8 countries are committed to meet their ODA commitments, especially to sub-Saharan Africa, including those on Aid for Trade and debt relief," they said.

The leaders said they were committed to strengthening their dialogue and partnership with low income countries on the basis of a set of core development principles:
  • Promoting effective and responsible policies for sustainable development
  • Promoting good governance, accountability and transparency
  • Promoting partnership, dialogue and capacity development
  • Strengthening multilateral and regional institutions.
They also said they were committed to advance reform processes in international organisations, including the United Nations, to reflect contemporary reality and challenges, thus enhancing their relevance, legitimacy and efficiency.

They said they were also dedicated to improving the coherence of the multilateral system and welcomed stronger coordination of international organisations.

"In particular, we encourage the relevant UN organisations, the IMF, the FSB, the ILO, the OECD, the WB and the WTO to work in a coordinated manner," the declaration added.

Photo courtesy: G8website / ANSA photo by Massimo Percoss

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PM calls for inclusive approach in response to economic downturn

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that it was only through an inclusive approach that a collective global response to the ongoing economic slowdown could be effective.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Joint Press Conference of G5 Leaders at L’Aquila, Italy on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Joint Press Conference of G5 Leaders at L’Aquila, Italy on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that it was only through an inclusive approach that a collective global response to the ongoing economic slowdown could be effective.

At a joint press conference in the Italian town of L'Aquila yesterday evening after a summit of G-5 leaders, Dr Singh said developing countries had been the worst affected by the weakened global economy.

The G-5 groups Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa. Yesterday's meeting was chaired by Mexico.

"In our meeting today, we covered a large agenda...We discussed how we could contribute to strengthening the green shoots of recovery," he said of the discussions that the G-5 leaders had.

The Prime Minister is in Italy to attend the G-8/G-5 Summits. Yesterday, the G-8 and G-5 had separate, parallel meetings, and the G-5 leaders will meet their G-8 counterparts today.

He said the G-5 countries would stress at their meeting with the G-8 leaders the importance of maintaining adequate flow of finance to the developing countries and also of keeping markets open by resisting protectionist pressures.

"The developing countries are also the worst affected by high food prices. We agreed that agriculture and food security need to be placed at the core of the international agenda," he said.

Dr Singh said the G-5 countries, as responsible members of the international community, recognised their obligation to preserve the environment. But, he stressed, climate change could not be addressed by perpetuating the poverty of the developing countries.

"The concept of sustainable development has so far been a buzz word. We need to evolve a strategy of growth that brings about a higher standard of living without harming the environment," he said.

The Prime Minister said the G-5 declaration reflected many of the concerns and positions of developing countries.

"These need to be taken into account in shaping global responses to global challenges. We would like to engage in a dialogue with our developed country partners on an equal footing.

"India looks forward to working with the G-5 as we begin our dialogue with the G-8 countries tomorrow," he added.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the dinner with G5 Leaders, at L’Aquila, Italy on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the dinner with G5 Leaders, at L’Aquila, Italy on Wednesday.

The G-8/G-5 Outreach meetings are scheduled today. In the morning, the G-8 will meet with all G-5 leaders and Egypt, which has been invited by Italy, the hosts.

The meeting is expected to discuss global issues and development policies and ways of taking the dialogue between the two groups foward.

The G8 had in 2007, at the Heiligendamm Summit, started the Heiligendamm Dialogue Process between the G-5 and G-8 countries on a host of issues, including protecting innovation, research, cross border investment, energy and development, particularly in Africa.

It was supposed to be a two-year dialogue that has gone through two Summits already and the leaders will now have to take a decision on how to carry the process further.

At lunch today, the G-8/G-5 leaders and a few other invitees will discuss issues such as the future sources of growth in the world economy and how to revive the growth in the world economy.

Tomorrow, the G-8 will do an Outreach with African countries over breakfast, which will be followed by a session, involving the G-5 and international organisations, devoted to food security.

This is the Prime Minister's fifth such summit. India had been invited as an Outreach partner at the Evian Summit in France in 2003. There was no Outreach in 2004. India was again one of the invitees, along with other members of the G5, at the Gleneagles Summit in 2005, when it had presented a paper on climate change and international cooperation and energy security. India was also present at the St. Petersburg, Heilgendamm and Toyako Summits in the years that followed.

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Slowdown: PM calls for global response to systemic failures

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday that India would, in the wake of the world financial and economic slowdown, like to see a concerted global response to address systemic failures and to stimulate the real economy.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said India would, in the wake of the world financial and economic slowdown, like to see a concerted and well-coordinated global response to address systemic failures and to stimulate the real economy,

"In the longer run, we would like to see a much higher level of stability and sustainability in the growth patterns of the developed world, and in international financial governance," Dr Singh said in a departure statement today before leaving for L'Aquila in Italy to attend the G-8 and G-5 Summit.

"The global financial and economic slowdown that we are witnessing is particularly detrimental for the development objectives of developing countries such as India. This has not been a crisis of our making, but we have had to bear its consequences. The slowdown in the advanced economies has affected our exports, strengthened protectionists sentiments and impacted credit and capital flows," he said.

Apart from attending the July 9-10 Summit, being hosted by the Italian Presidency of the G-8, the Prime Minister will also attend a meeting of the leaders of the G5 group of countries (Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.

As part of the G-8 related events, he will also participate in the meetings of the Major Economies Forum on Trade Matters and Climate Change, as well as a meeting on food security being organized by Italy with the participation of several African nations.

Dr Singh said the meetings would be an occasion for projecting India's views on major global issues relating to the world economic and financial crisis and its impact on development, food security, energy security and climate change, international trade negotiations and reform of international institutions.

"The issues of food security, energy security and climate change are closely interlinked. They have to be approached as a single undertaking if we are to give meaning to the concept of sustainable development," he said.

The Prime Minister said climate change would be an important subject of discussion at the meetings, pointing out that the developing countries were the worst affected by the problem.

"What we are witnessing today is the consequence of over two centuries of industrial activity and high consumption lifestyles in the developed world. They have to bear this historical responsibility. India will actively participate in the international negotiations on climate change within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Bali Action Plan," he said.

Dr Singh is also scheduled to have bilateral meetings with the leaders of Italy, Angola, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom during his visit. He is also likely to meet United States President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the Summit.

Briefing journalists yesterday about the Prime Minister's visit, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said there would be separate, parallel meetings of the G5 and G8 leaders tomorrow.

Mexico will chair the G5 meeting and the five leaders are scheduled to address a joint press conference before going in for dinner among themselves.

On July 9, the G8/G5 Outreach meetings will be held. In the morning, the G8 will meet with all G5 leaders and Egypt, which has also been invited by Italy, as the host.

Mr Menon said the meeting would discuss global issues and development policies and ways of taking the dialogue between the two forward.

The G8 had in 2007, at the Heiligendamm Summit started the Heiligendamm Dialogue Process between the G5 and G8 countries on a host of issues, including protecting innovation, research, cross border investment, energy and development, particularly in Africa.

It was supposed to be a two-year dialogue that has gone through two Summits already and the leaders will now have to take a decision on how to carry the process further.

At lunch, on July 9, the G8/G5 leaders and a few other invitees will discuss issues such as the future sources of growth in the world economy and how to revive the growth in the world economy.

In the afternoon, there will be meetings of the Major Economies Forum on energy and climate change in two sessions and another one on trade, which will discuss ways of fighting protectionism and moving the international trade agenda forward.

Mr Menon said that on July 10 the G8 will do an Outreach with African countries over breakfast, which will be followed by a session, involving the G5 and international organisations, devoted to food security.

This will be the Prime Minister's fifth such summit. India had been invited as an Outreach partner at the Evian Summit in France in 2003. There was no Outreach in 2004. India was again one of the invitees, along with other members of the G5, at the Gleneagles Summit in 2005, when it had presented a paper on climate change and international cooperation and energy security. India was also present at the St. Petersburg, Heilgendamm and Toyako Summits in the years that followed.

Mr Menon said the meetings have been useful for India because its gets a chance to discuss major global issues with leaders of the major economies and significant partners in a relatively informal atmosphere and also to hold bilateral talks.

He pointed out that the issues have varied over time, and this year's summit is taking place against the background of the world economic crisis.

He felt the discussions on climate change in Italy would be important in the run up to the Copenhagen meeting in December.

"This is an issue the international community will need to address. They will get the chance to talk about it. This is not a negotiating forum and this is not an occasion where you try and substitute what is done in the various negotiating forums but it does provide a chance to people to talk to each other frankly and to try and understand each other’s points of view and to see how we can take this forward. And that is really the value of this sort of dialogue at the highest level," Mr Menon explained.

"We, from our point of view, it is clearly important that, as we look for global solutions to global problems, that we work with rest of the international community and in a constructive, positive way and India also assumes her responsibilities internationally and this is why we find it essential and useful to engage in this process and have done so consistently, as I said, for the last five (summits)," he said.

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Banerjee proposes 12 new non-stop train services in budget

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee announced 12 new point-to-point non-stop trains between major cities in the Lok Sabha on Friday while presenting the 2009-10 Railway Budget, which did not propose any increase in passenger fares or freight rates.

Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee arrives at the Parliament with Ministers of State for Railways E Ahamed and K H Muniyappa to present the 2009-10 Rail Budget on Friday.
Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee arrives at the Parliament with Ministers of State for Railways E Ahamed and K H Muniyappa to present the 2009-10 Rail Budget on Friday.
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee announced 12 new point-to-point non-stop trains between major cities in the Lok Sabha today while presenting the Railway Budget for 2009-10, which did not propose any increase in passenger fares or freight rates.

The new service, named "Duronto", will have air-conditioned and non-airconditioned sleepers and will run between select cities.

The pairs of cities are: New Delhi-Jammu Tawi, New Delhi-Lucknow, New Delhi-Allahabad, Mumbai-Ahmedabad (all tri-weekly), Howrah-Mumbai, Chennai-Delhi, Delhi-Pune, Howrah-Delhi, Sealdah-New Delhi, Kolkata-Amritsar (all bi-weekly) and Bhubaneswar-Delhi and Ernakulam-Delhi (weekly).

Ms Banerjee also announced 57 new train services, extension of 27 trains and increase in the frequency of 13 trains. She also proposed the introduction of air-conditioned double-decker coaches for inter-city travel.

She announced a new scheme, "Izzat", for travel with dignity. Under this scheme, people in unorganized sector with monthly income upto Rs.1,500/- can avail concessional monthly season ticket of Rs.25/- for travel upto 100 km.

The existing student concession will be extended to students of madrasas and students in Kolkata will now have the monthly season ticket facilities for Kolkata Metro also.

To provide relief to women passengers, Ms Banerjee proposed "Ladies Only" EMU trains in the suburban sections of Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata during rush hours. She also announced new "Yuva trains" dedicated to young generation from rural areas to major metros with concessional fares but with air-conditioned coaches.

Accredited journalists will get increased concession of 50 per cent instead of the existing 30 per cent. Once in a year, their spouse can also travel with 50 per cent concession.

Ms Banerjee said 50 railway stations would be developed as world-class stations and 375 stations as ‘Adarsh Stations’ with improved basic amenities. Multi-functional complexes with shopping facilities, food stalls and budget hotels will be constructed at 50 railway stations at centres of pilgrimage, tourism and industry.

The minister said the approach in the budget was for "inclusive growth" and expansion of the railway network to take development to every corner of the country.

She said the railways would have an outlay of Rs 40,745 crore for 2009-10. Out of this, Rs.2,921 crore will be spent on new lines, Rs.1,750 crore on gauge conversion and Rs.1,102 crore on passenger amenities, which is 119% more than the allocation in the interim budget. She said Rs.424 crore will be spent on railway staff amenities.

She proposed freight loading target of 882 million tonnes (MT) and estimated gross freight receipt at Rs.88,419 crore.

Giving an overview of financial performance of the Railways in 2008-09, the minister said that freight loading during the period grew by five percent while traffic receipts increased by 11.4 per cent to reach Rs. 79,862 crore.

The budget has proposals for seven new lines, gauge conversion of 17 lines and doubling of 13 lines. In addition, proposals for 53 new lines, three gauge conversion and doubling of 12 lines will be processed during the year.

Ms Banerjee proposed to revise the "Tatkal Scheme" to make it more passenger-friendly by reducing the advance booking time and the minimum charges.

She promised a perceptible improvement in passenger amenities and said that safety and security would be given the highest importance. She said cleanliness and quality of railway catering would be improved with focus on strict monitoring.

The minister said ticketing facilities would be taken to the grassroot level. Under the "Maa Mati Manush" initiative, computerized tickets will also be made available through Post Offices. Mobile ticketing vans, "Mushkil Aasaan", will also be introduced to provide services in remote areas.

Timely track renewal, modernization of signals and use of digital ultrasonic flaw detectors will be introduced for the safety of the passengers besides Integrated Security Scheme at 140 vulnerable and sensitive stations. Women Railway Protection Force (RPF) squads, exclusively for women passengers, will also be introduced, she said.

Ms Banerjee announced the introduction of "Janata Khana", in which national and regional cuisines would be provided to passengers. To improve the cleanliness, the onboard house keeping scheme (OBHS) will cover 200 additional pairs of trains. The long distance trains will have onboard availability of doctors and infotainment services.

She also proposed 1000 new passenger reservation locations and expansion of Unreserved Ticketing System terminals from 5000 to 8000, In addition, automated ticket vending machines will be installed at 200 large and medium-sized stations.

Stressing on the extension of facilities for handicapped persons, the Railway Minister said that the Railway will have more ramps, lifts, escalators and special coaches for physically challenged and aged persons.

Reiterating her priority to extend railway services to farmers, she announced special trains to ferry perishable agro-products like fruits and vegetables and also village handicrafts, cottage industry and textile products from production clusters to consumer centres.

She also proposed a premium freight service for container movement with assured transit time and a mega logistics hub alongside the Eastern and the Western dedicated freight corridors. Premium parcel services with guaranteed transit time on pilot basis will be introduced on three routes. During 2009-10, Railway would acquire 18,000 new wagons against 11,000 in 2008-09.

The minister announced the creation of a North-East Rail Development Fund for timely completion of national projects in the North-Eastern region.

She said the new Quazigund-Anantnag line in Jammu and Kashmir would be completed by next month.

Ms Banerjee proposed the setting up of a new factory at Kanchrapara-Halisahar for manufacturing rail coaches and setting up a 1000 MW power plant at Adra, in collaboration with the Ministry of Power.

The Railway Minister said that welfare of railway staff will be given high priority. As many as 6560 staff quarters will be constructed in 2009-10 and indoor stadia will be developed in major railway divisions and zones. Increased contribution of Rs.350 per employee to Staff Benefit Fund will continue for a year, with Rs.100 per employee for women empowerment.

She said scholarships would be introduced for the higher education of girl children of Group ‘D’ staff. She proposed attached medical colleges with railway hospitals at 18 locations and one burns unit at major hospitals.

The Minister said the policy on Railway Recruitment Boards would be reviewed. Special recruitment drives for filling vacancies in posts reserved for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and physically handicapped persons would be undertaken, she said.

Ms Banerjee said there would be a review of projects with social perspective and said innovating financing methods would be adopted.

She said the Railways would come out with a White Paper on its organizational, operational and financial status based on the performance of the last five years and also a Vision 2020 document with short and long term strategy and a plan of action.

The minister said that a project monitoring committee would be set up for developing mechanisms to avoid slippages in project delivery. Special monitoring will be taken up for all National Rail Projects.

She also proposed a committee headed by telecom expert Sam Pitroda to suggest innovations to utilize the optic fibre cable network of the Railways and take information technology to remote areas.

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