(Current Affairs) India and The World | January: 2016

India & The World

Western Intelligence taps India for inputs on IS

  • Ever since the Islamic State burst into the global stage in the summer of 2014, when it announced the establishment of a caliphate, Western intelligence agencies have been scrambling for information on the group and its sympathisers.

  • One of the key sources of information for them, incidentally, is India because of several factors. The key factor is that Indian agencies have sizeable da-ta on Indians who have gone to the IS battlefields, or who were radicalised by IS handlers.

  • Indian agencies have interrogated or accessed information about dozens of youths who have either been to Syria-Iraq or were intercepted while on their way to the Iraq-Syria battlefield.

  • According to one source, 65 persons are undergoing de-radicalisation after being in touch with the IS, while an-other 55 could be under watch. About 20 are thought to be with the IS now, half a dozen are dead, and a couple of them have returned to India.

  • European and U.S. intelligence agencies have been struggling to stop further flow of their residents to the IS. According to a French Senate report in April, of the over 3,000 European IS members, 1,430 are from France.

  • A news report said that the French intelligence was monitoring another 1,570 people, and a further 7,000 are considered at risk of radicalisation.

Mr. Modi’s Diaspower

  • The Wembley event is unique in many ways, still it is part of a planned series of diaspora events PM Modi has undertaken in the past year. From San Jose to Sydney, from Madison Square Gardens in New York to Dubai’s Sport City cricket stadium, and from Shanghai to Toronto.

  • Mr. Modi’s NRI outreach through massive arena functions is unique, no other Indian PM has attempted on this scale.

  • In November alone, Wembley was the first of three such events, with rallies planned in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore for audiences of 20,000 each.

  • As they queue up for their passes to enter the Wembley arena, many tell us what draws so many NRIs to Mr. Modi’s speeches. Some say it is his “positive vibe”, while others refer to the “high expectations he has generated for India”.

  • For decades, emigrating Indians have faced some shame for “abandoning the motherland”, say NRIs Piyush Gohil and Avinash Varia, “Made in India” sweatshirt-wearing volunteers on Mr. Modi’s welcome committee in the UK.

  • “We always lived with a corner of guilt in our hearts,” says Mr. Gohil, who has run a small business in London for 12 years. “But by attending Mr. Modi’s rallies, we still feel a part of India, and we feel reassured that our values, our bonds are intact.” Mr. Modi’s message to NRIs as a “brain gain, not a brain drain,” has particularly struck a chord with them.

  • Forsome businessman it is PM Modi’s message of Hindutva and Indian values and traditions that draws them.

  • “There’s an inherent conservatism to any diaspora,” explains one of Britain’s most famous NRIs, Lord Meghnad Desai. “Add to that, a large chunk of them are businessmen or business professionals who aren’t very political. That’s the core of PM Modi’s support base amongst the diaspora, as his twin messages of pushing trade, while retaining religious conservatism and right-wing beliefs perfectly align with theirs.”

  • While a more politically involved diaspora, of the kind perhaps only Israel has at present, seems attractive for Mr. Modi and the BJP’s campaigns, there are signs that there may be some unease from host countries of the Indian diaspora over any “show of strength” or “muscle-flexing” during the PM’s rallies abroad.

  • As a result, the “Namo in Singapore” website only accepts registrations after people submit their Indian passport details. While Singaporean officials haven’t explained their reasons officially, diplomats say the measure was a result of the sometimes “hyper national” tone of Mr. Modi’s speeches, and given Singapore’s long and tenuous history of inter-racial tensions, these may not go down as well with the larger population.

  • Officials reportedly studied the PM’s rally in Dubai this august, where similar tensions persist, especially amongst blue-collar workers, and decided on the measure. When asked, Mr. Ram Madhav denies there is any squeamishness over the events from the host countries in question. In any case, Mr. Madhav points out, apart from East Africa and the Caribbean, the PM has already visited all the countries that have big diasporic populations, hinting there may be less occasion for such NRI extravaganzas in the future.

Pak. to avoid talks on nukes during Army Chief’s U.S. visit

  • Pakistan will not discuss the issue of its nuclear weapons in talks with American officials during Army Chief General Raheel Sharif’s U.S. visit next week and will instead point to India’s “cold-start doctrine” to justify its nuclear status, a media report on Friday said. General Sharif will discuss several important issues during his trip from November 15 to 20, which follows Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s U.S. visit last month.

  • The Dawn quoted diplomatic sources as saying that even if the U.S. side brought up this issue, “Pakistan will politely remind them that it was India’s so-called cold-start doctrine that created the current situation.” Pakistan claims that under the cold-start military doc-trine, India has built cantonments and airbases close to the border that has shortened the time for launching an offensive.

  • It also highlighted U.S. media reports suggesting that American officials will urge the Pakistan army chief to revise his country’s nuclear policy.

On Day 1, concern over Sikh radicalism

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, now on a visit to the United Kingdom, is learnt to have told his British counterpart David Cameron that Indian intelligence agencies had information that two gurdwaras, one in Birmingham and the other in Glasgow, were being used to espouse radical views among the Sikh youth.

  • Mr. Modi is learnt to have told Mr. Cameron that radical groups were being trained there with the help of live demonstrations to make improvised explosive devices. These classes were held in December 2014 and January 2015.

  • Babbar Khalsa International, which was banned in India, had started an Internet radio which was accessible through its parent site www.khalsa-fauj.net. The website allegedly glorified slain Khalistani militants.

  • Mr. Modi is believed to have told Mr. Cameron that funds were collected by organisations such as the BKI, International Sikh Youth Federation, Khalistan Commando Force, Khalistan Zindabad Force and sent to intermediaries based in Punjab and Pakistan.

Cameron offers to fund Modi’s vision

  • After his parleys at 10 Downing Street, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was accompanied by his counterpart David Cameron through the entire day on Thursday, paid homage at the recently installed statue of Mahatma Gandhi in London as British jets streaked the sky with the tricolor.

  • Later in the evening, after the Prime Ministers attended a meeting of British MPs for a speech by Mr. Modi, they stood on the banks of the Thames river where the iconic London Eye ferris wheel was also lit up in the colours of the flag.

  • On the economic front, India announced the first government-backed rupee denominated bond for the Indian Railways, which Mr. Cameron called a part of the U.K.’s desire to become “the number one partner to finance the immense economic vision of Prime Minister Modi and make London the centre for of-shore rupee trading.” British and Indian companies are expected to sign deals worth 9 billion pounds ($13.6 billion), Mr. Cameron disclosed.

  • New mechanism Echoing the need to drive relations through the economic partnership, Mr. Modi announced that the government will launch a new fast track mechanism to channel British investments in India. Addressing British MPs, Mr. Modi spoke of the bilateral talks on climate change and clean energy cooperation. “In Britain, you are more likely to use an umbrella against the rain than the sun,” Mr. Modi said to much laughter from the audience.

PM has wide ground to cover in London

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-day visit to the U.K. beginning Thurs-day will focus on defence and strategic ties and economic relations, with deals estimated at a reported $18 billion expected to be signed during the visit.

  • The highlight, however, is expected to be the address to Indians and NRIs at Lon-don’s Wembley Stadium, likely to be attended by over 60,000 people Significantly, Mr. Modi will be introduced at Wembley by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who will also accompany him through most of the vis-it, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said.

  • The highlights of the visit include lunch with Queen El-izabeth II, dinner and an overnight stay at Chequers court, the U.K. PM’s official country retreat, as well as the first address by an Indian Prime Minister to the British Parliament. Mr. Modi and Mr. Cameron will pay respects to Mahatma Gandhi at a newly installed statue out-side Parliament, and are expected to issue several joint statements on the defence and strategic partnership, energy and climate change, development partnership, and a vision statement.

  • For the first time ever, the Red Arrows aerobatics team of the British Royal Air Force will spew fumes in the tricolour of the Indian flag in a flypast on Thursday to welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his visit.

  • Besides a possible announcement for the purchase of 20 more Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) aircraft for the Indian Air Force, Mr. Modi’s visit will see high-level consultations on British investments in the defence sector under the Make in India programme, and stepping up of bilateral coordination over terrorism-related issues.

Assad’s opponents turn down Russia’s 18-month reform plan

  • Syrian Opposition figures dismissed on Wednesday a Russian draft proposal for a process to solve the Syrian crisis, saying Moscow’s aim was to keep President Bashar al-Assad in pow-er and marginalise dissenting voices.
  • A draft document obtained by Reuters on Tuesday showed Moscow would like Damascus and unspecified Opposition groups to agree on launching a constitutional reform process of up to 18 months, followed by early presidential elections.
  • Russia, which with Iran has been Assad’s top ally during Syria’s nearly five-year conflict, has denied any document is being prepared before a second round of international peace talks in Vienna this week.
  • The text, obtained by Reuters, does not rule out Assad’s participation in early presidential elections, something his enemies say is impossible if there is to be peace.

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