India, World

Pakistan returns Indian pilot shot down over Kashmir in ‘peace gesture’

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Pakistan returns Indian pilot shot down over Kashmir in ‘peace gesture'” was written by Michael Safi in Delhi and Mehreen Zahra-Malik in Islamabad, for The Guardian on Friday 1st March 2019 21.16 Asia/Kolkata

Pakistan has returned an Indian pilot who had become the face of the worst military crisis between the two countries in decades, in a gesture aimed at demonstrating its willingness to de-escalate the conflict.

Wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was shot down during the first publicly acknowledged dogfight between the countries in 48 years on Wednesday, was returned to India at the Wagah border crossing in Punjab on Friday evening.

The region in the foothills of the Himalayas has been under dispute since India and Pakistan came into being in 1947.

Who controls Kashmir?

Both claim it in full, but each controls a section of the territory, separated by one of the world’s most heavily militarised borders: the ‘line of control’ based on a ceasefire border established after a 1947-48 war. China controls another part in the east.

India and Pakistan have gone to war three times over Kashmir, most recently in 1999. Artillery, mortar and small arms fire are still frequently exchanged.

How did the dispute start?

After the partition of colonial India 71 years ago, small, semi-autonomous ‘princely states’ across the subcontinent were being folded into India or Pakistan. The ruler of Kashmir dithered over which to join,  until tribal fighters entered from Pakistan intent on taking the region for Islamabad.

Kashmir asked Delhi for assistance, signing a treaty of accession in exchange for the intervention of Indian troops, who fought the Pakistanis to the modern-day line of control.

In 1948, the UN security council called for a referendum in Kashmir to determine which country the region would join, or whether it would become an independent state. The referendum has never been held.

In its 1950 constitution, India granted Kashmir a large measure of independence. But since then it has eroded some of that autonomy and repeatedly intervened to rig elections, and dismiss and jail democratically elected leaders.

What do the militants want?

There has been an armed insurgency against Indian rule over its section of Kashmir for the past three decades. Indian soldiers and Pakistan-backed guerillas fought a war replete with accusations of torture, forced disappearances and extra-judicial killing.

Until 2004, the militancy was made up largely of Pakistani and Afghan fighters. Since then, especially after protests were quashed with extreme force in 2016, locals have made up a growing share of the anti-India fighters.

For Indians, control of Kashmir – part of the country’s only Muslim-majority state – has been proof of its commitment to religious pluralism. For Pakistan, a state founded as a homeland for south Asian Muslims, it is the last occupied home of its co-religionists. Michael Safi

Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, had announced his impending release in parliament on Thursday, calling it a “peace gesture”.

The pilot’s homecoming sparked jubilation in India. Large crowds gathered near the border post cheering, dancing and waving Indian flags in scenes broadcast live on major TV news channels, who counted down the hours to Varthaman’s return throughout the afternoon and evening. A Bollywood filmmaker has already applied to copyright the movie title Abhinandan.

Varthaman’s return had been scheduled for the afternoon but was delayed for hours without explanation, leading TV anchors to speculate something may have gone wrong. At around 9.15pm Indian time, he appeared on the Pakistan side of the border crossing, straight-backed and wearing a blue blazer and grey trousers.

People gather at the Wagah border, on the outskirts of the northern city of Amritsar, India.
People gather at the Wagah border, on the outskirts of the northern city of Amritsar, India.
Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

The diminutive iron gates on both sides of the border slid open and Varthaman strode out onto the no-man’s land in between. For a moment soldiers from both sides came face-to-face. Varthaman shook the hand of an Indian officer, and another took him by the waist and walked him onto Indian soil. The two gates were slammed shut behind him.

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, tweeted:

Varthaman’s parents flew from Chennai to Delhi on a midnight flight on Thursday, where they received a standing ovation from passengers. They drove to Amritsar, the closest city to the Wagah border, soon after touching down in the capital.

Around the time he was crossing the border, Islamabad released what appeared to be a heavily edited video in which Varmathan recounts his capture, praises the way he was treated and criticises the Indian media. “The Indian media always exaggerates. They embellish the smallest thing, present it as if on fire, and people fall for it,” the footage shows him saying in Hindi.

The fate of the pilot had become a major concern in India after a series of videos were released showing him being beaten by a mob near his crash site and then interrogated by Pakistani officers while blindfolded and wearing a bloodied uniform. He gave his name, rank and religion, but when prompted for more, calmly replied: “I’m sorry, sir, that’s all I’m supposed to tell you.”

The footage was widely circulated on WhatsApp and social media and broadcast nationally in both countries, including on India’s stridently nationalistic evening talk shows.

Pakistan appeared to seize on Varthaman’s potential to be a circuit breaker in the conflict by the evening, releasing a video showing the detainee drinking chai, saying he was being treated well and lauding his captors as “thorough gentlemen”. “The tea is fantastic,” he added.

India had lodged an official complaint about the “vulgar display” of the prisoner in the videos and demand his immediate return without conditions.

Kashmir, a Himalayan region the two countries claim in full but rule in part, has been the trigger for three India-Pakistan wars since 1947. The pair regularly trade mortar fire over the heavily guarded line of control separating the two armies, including on Friday as Varthaman was being repatriated.

Map: where the pilot was handed over

The stakes of the latest flare-up have been heightened by an impending general election in India and the introduction of social media and cable news in both countries, which have created new and influential public lobbies.

False news and videos including of pilots killed or injured in earlier accidents and supposed footage of India’s strike on Pakistan that later turned out to be a clip from a video game were also widely circulated.

Modi, who is currently campaigning for re-election, trumpeted the strikes against Pakistan from the hustings on Friday.

“From 2004 to 2014 there were several terror attacks,” he said, speaking at a rally in Tamil Nadu state. “The nation expected perpetrators to be punished but nothing happened … Today, we are in an era where the news reads: armed forces have full freedom to do what they want.”

Varthaman’s release on Friday was lauded as a “titanic win for India” by more jingoistic elements of the country’s media, but Khan’s announcement puts pressure on Delhi to reciprocate in a way that eases tensions before it is has necessarily achieved its strategic goals.

The current crisis was sparked by a 14 February suicide bombing by a Pakistan-based militant group in the disputed region of Kashmir that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries.

Indian jets flew more than 50 miles inside Pakistan to strike what Delhi has said was a militant training centre in reprisal, the first attack on undisputed Pakistani territory since a war between the countries in 1971.

Indian government officials said on Thursday the attack was intended to raise the costs for Pakistan of continuing to allow jihadi groups to operate with free rein on its soil. India has previously practised “strategic restraint” in response to attacks by Pakistan-based militants, including a four-day bombing and shooting operation in Mumbai in 2008 that killed or injured nearly 1,000 people.

India wants Pakistan to take verifiable action to show it is cracking down on Islamist militia groups, an issue it says Islamabad has sought to distract from by creating the impression the two nuclear-armed countries are on the brink of war.

Pakistani jets struck Indian territory near Kashmir’s ceasefire line on Wednesday morning. Both countries say they shot down an opposing jet in the ensuing aerial combat, including Varthaman’s, which landed in Pakistan-held territory.

The clashes led to the closure of airspace across Pakistan and northern India, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded as airlines cancelled flights to the region or scrambled to find alternate routes.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, was asked by CNN on Thursday night if his country would arrest Mahmood Azhar, the leader of the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which claimed responsibility for the attack on the Indian paramilitaries. “According to my information he is very unwell,” Qureshi said. “He is unwell to the extent he cannot leave his house.”

India has given Pakistan a dossier of evidence on the involvement of Azhar and JeM in the plot. Qureshi has said he would examine the dossier but told CNN that India needed to “give us evidence which is acceptable to the courts of Pakistan” before it arrested the militant leader.

Pakistan has not explained why more evidence than JeM’s claim of responsibility would be necessary.

The country’s climate change minister, Malik Amin Aslam, told Reuters on Friday he planned to lodge a complaint against India at the UN, claiming its airstrikes had destroyed pine trees in a forest reserve. “What happened over there is environmental terrorism,” Aslam said.

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Haryana, North India

Haryana Urban Local Bodies Department starts several online services for industries

Northindiakaleidoscope Bureau

Chandigarh, March 2

Haryana Urban Local Bodies Department has started several online services for industries through HEPC (Single Window Clearance Portal) and appealed the industrialists to make maximum use of online services to avail benefits of different schemes of the Department.

        While stating this here today, a spokesperson of the Department said that through online system, the industrialists can know the status of their application besides obtaining different certificates through online portal.

        He said that the services being provided online include approval of building plan, issuance of business licences, approval of fire fighting scheme or fire N.O.C, information of outstanding property tax and issuance of occupation certificate.

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Haryana

INLD demands resignation of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar after SC directions relating to Punjab Land Preservation (Haryana Amendment) Bill, 2019

Northindiakaleidoscope Bureau

Chandigarh, March 2, 2019:

Welcoming the directions given by the Supreme Court regarding the ‘misadventure’ of the Haryana Government in piloting the Punjab Land Preservation (Haryana Amendment) Bill, 2019 in the State Assembly recently, the State President of Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), Ashok Arora has demanded the immediate resignation of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.

In a statement, he recalled that during the current Vidhan Sabha session, while speaking on the Governor’s address, legislators of the INLD had criticized the Government’s move to bring in the proposed amendment to the PLPA Act but their protests and warnings were brushed away.

He said that it was a brazen act of the Khattar regime to ignore the pleas and arguments of the INLD, other political parties and environmentalists and therefore has been aptly rapped by the Supreme Court.

The warning of the Court that any further step in that direction will invite contempt of court is timely and will provide relief and hope to all. He added that the remarks of the Supreme Court that it appeared that the said amendment had been carried out to oblige a chosen few friends of the Government were an indictment of the manner in which this Government has been working.

Mr.Arora also reminded that not too long ago the Supreme Court had expressed astonishment at the fact that a private mining company with interests in Dadam, Bhiwani had bypassed all administrative norms and directly approached the Chief Minister who had no hesitation in entertaining his plea. Thus, he concluded, the Khattar Government was guilty of serial offences as far as promoting crony capitalism in the State was concerned.

He further accused the BJP of showing scant respect for the environment and ecology of the State by insensitively promoting builders and destroying forest cover. He pointed out that as it is the State barely has a forest of about 3 per cent of its area and that is why it is imperative that it is nursed properly so that ecological balance is maintained.

He asserted that in recent years the BJP dispensation has been using al fair and foul means to bull doze its agenda through the legal and constitutional checks and balances even if it is to give relief to builders and real estate agents.

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North India, Punjab

PUNJAB CABINET DECIDES ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT FOR 10% RESERVATION TO EWS IN GOVT JOBS

Northindiakaleidoscope Bureau

CHANDIGARH, MARCH 2:

Giving preferential treatment to the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in matters of reservation in Government jobs, the Punjab Cabinet led by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday decided to go in for a constitutional amendment for the same,

The proposed amendment relates to insertion of Clauses 15 (6) and 16 (6) in the Constitution of India, vide the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019.

Following the amendment, a 10 percent reservation would be provided to the residents of Punjab belonging to EWS, who were not covered under the existing scheme of reservation for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes, and whose families had gross annual income below Rs 8 lakhs.

The reservation will be provided in direct recruitment to groups A, B, C and D posts in the Departments/Boards/Corporations/Local Bodies of the state. Family for this purpose will include income from all sources i.e. salary, agriculture, business, profession etc ,and it will be income for the financial year prior to the year of application. 

Also persons whose family owns or possesses any of the assets – 5 acres of agriculture land and above, residential flat of 1000 Sq. ft and above, residential plot of 100 sq. yards and above in notified Municipalities and residential plot of 200 sq. yards and above in areas other than the notified Municipalities – will be excluded from being identified as EWS, irrespective of the family income. The income and assets of the family would be required to be certified after verifying all relevant documents as may be specified by the Government. 

The Cabinet also authorized the Chief Minister to approve framing, amendment and issue of any rules/notifications/instructions, as may be required, to give effect to this resolution.

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Punjab

PUNJAB CABINET GIVES NOD TO UPGRADE BATALA, KAPURTHALA AND ABOHAR AS MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONS

NORTHINDIAKALEIDOSCOPE BUREAU

CHANDIGARH, MARCH 2:

To mark the commemoration of the 550th Parkash Purb of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the Punjab Cabinet has approved upgradation of the historic towns of Batala, Kapurthala and Abohar as Municipal Corporations, thus fulfilling a long-pending demand of the residents of these border areas.

The decision was taken during the Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh this morning.

The move is aimed at sprucing up the existing infrastructure in the historic towns of Batala and Kapurthala as part of the 550th Parkash Purb of the first Sikh Guru and strengthening the urban infrastructure in Abohar.

The decision would go a long way in ensuring the holistic development of these towns with best civic amenities, road connectivity and city transport services to the residents, thereby improving their quality of life. With the upgradation of three towns as Municipal Corporation, the Government would ensure proper devolution of funds to various departments and agencies for the overall development of these towns.

With this, the number of existing 10 Municipal Corporations across the state has now gone up to 13.

———–

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India

‘Get ready for our surprise’: Pakistan warns India it will respond to airstrikes

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “‘Get ready for our surprise’: Pakistan warns India it will respond to airstrikes” was written by Michael Safi in Delhi, Mehreen Zahra-Malik in Islamabad and Azhar Farooq in Srinagar, for The Guardian on Wednesday 27th February 2019 06.09 Asia/Kolkata

Pakistan’s army has warned it will respond to India’s aerial bombing over the disputed border in Kashmir, telling Delhi: “It is your turn now to wait and get ready for our surprise.”

Pakistan’s foreign ministry has summoned India’s top diplomat in Islamabad to protest against the pre-dawn airstrike on what India called a terrorist training camp, while India has accused Islamabad of shelling the disputed region in an “unprovoked” violation of the 2003 ceasefire.

Tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours have escalated in recent weeks with the killing of 40 Indian security personnel in a suicide bombing, and now Tuesday’s airstrike – the first such attack by India since it went to war with Pakistan in 1971.

India’s foreign secretary, Vijay Gokhale, called the attack “a pre-emptive strike” after receiving credible intelligence that the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which was behind the recent suicide bombing, was training fighters for similar attacks at the site.

Imran Khan, the Pakistani prime minister, said India’s claim that it had hit a terrorist training camp at Balakot was “a self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim”.

“This action has been done for domestic consumption in the election environment, putting regional peace and stability at grave risk,” Khan said, referring to India’s general election which starts in two months.

Pakistan’s armed forces spokesman, Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor,said a joint session of Pakistan’s parliament would be held on Wednesday, followed by a meeting of the National Command Authority, whose responsibilities include overseeing the country’s nuclear arsenal.

The attack was celebrated in India, but it was unclear on Tuesday whether anything significant had been struck by the fighter jets, or whether the operation had been carefully calibrated to ease popular anger over the 14 February suicide bombing without drawing a major Pakistani reprisal.

Pakistan, which was the first to announce the incursion, said the war planes made it up to five miles inside its territory before they were rebuffed, dropping their payloads without casualties or damage.

Ghafoor, tweeted on Tuesday morning that the Indian jets had dropped their bombs in an empty forested area. “No infrastructure got hit, no casualties,” he wrote.

Kashmir, a disputed region in the foothills of the Himalayas, has been at the centre of tensions between India and Pakistan since both states came into being in 1947.

Who controls Kashmir?

Both claim it in full, but each controls a section of the territory, separated by one of the most heavily militarised borders in the world: the “line of control” based on a ceasefire border established after a 1947-48 war over the region. China controls another part in the east.

India and Pakistan have gone to war three times over Kashmir, most recently in 1999. Artillery, mortar and small arms fire is still frequently exchanged over the ceasefire line.

How did the dispute start?

The roots of the conflict date back to the weeks after the partition of colonial India 71 years ago. Small, semi-autonomous “princely states” across the subcontinent were being folded into either India or Pakistan. The ruler of Kashmir dithered over which to join – until tribal fighters poured in from Pakistan, intent on winning the region for Islamabad.

Kashmir turned to Delhi for assistance, signing a treaty of accession with India in exchange for the intervention of Indian troops, who fought the Pakistanis to the modern-day line of control.

In 1948, the UN security council issued Resolution 47 calling for a referendum among Kashmiris to determine which country the region would join, or whether it would become an independent state. That referendum has never been held.

In its 1950 constitution, India granted Kashmir a large measure of independence. But, in the years since, it has eroded some of that autonomy and repeatedly intervened to rig elections and dismiss and jail democratically elected leaders.

What do the militants want?

For the past three decades, Indian-controlled Kashmir has been roiled by an armed insurgency against its rule. Indian soldiers and Pakistan-backed guerillas fought a dirty war replete with accusations of torture, forced disappearances and extra-judicial killing.

Until 2004, the militancy was made up largely of Pakistani and Afghan fighters. But since then, especially after massive popular protests were put down with extreme force in 2016, locals have made up a growing share of the anti-India fighters.

For Indians, control of Kashmir — part of the country’s only Muslim-majority state — has been proof of its commitment to religious pluralism. For Pakistan, a state founded as a homeland for south Asian Muslims, Kashmir is the last occupied home of its co-religionists. Michael Safi

Tuesday’s attacks followed nearly a fortnight of sabre-rattling between the pair over the southern Kashmir suicide bombing, in which India has claimed Pakistan had a “direct hand”. JeM is based in Pakistan but Islamabad has rejected any responsibility for the attack.

Map

Gokhale said Indian jets struck JeM’s largest training camp in the Balakot area, claiming a “very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis being trained for fidayeen [suicide] action were eliminated.” The facility, which he described as being in thick forest on a hilltop, was far away from any civilian settlements,overseen by the brother-in-law of the JeM chief, Masood Azhar, he added.

Significantly, Balakot is in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, about 50 miles from the line of control and well into accepted Pakistan territory. An attack there would represent an escalation from previous Indian reprisals.

“It changes the game significantly by raising the costs for Pakistan,” said Khalid Shah, a research fellow at the Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.

Islamabad released pictures on social media showing uprooted trees and cratered soil, which it claimed was the extent of the damage from the Indian bombing.

Local media in Pakistan as well as Reuters quoted residents of Balakot who said they heard four to five blasts overnight which damaged homes and left large pockmarks in the ground.

A photograph released by Pakistan of what it says was damage caused by bombing in Balakot
A photograph released by Pakistan of what it says was damage caused by bombing in Balakot.
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The conflicting narratives over the attack echo India’s claims in September 2016 it sent special forces to destroy militant facilities over the ceasefire border – an attack that Pakistan still maintains never happened.

The opposing positions allowed India to trumpet its reprisal against Pakistan without forcing Islamabad to respond in a way that might spiral into a larger conflict.

Indian ministers lauded the airstrikes. “It was an act of extreme valour,” said Prakash Javadekar, the human resources development minister, in the first official acknowledgement of the operation.

Another minister, Vijay Kumar Singh, posted a picture on Twitter of an eagle with a snake in its talons. “They say they want to bleed India with 1,000 cuts,” he wrote. “We say that each time you attack us, be certain we will get back at you, harder and stronger.”

Despite Pakistan downplaying the impact of the attacks, Khan, whose successful election campaign last year featured strident promises to stand up to India, could still face popular pressure to respond.

“Strategically, it is a disaster for Pakistan that India can keep doing this,” said Mosharraf Zaidi, a political analyst and columnist, referring to both Tuesday’s attack and the September 2016 strikes. “What does it say about Pakistan’s red lines that countries like India can keep violating our airspace or claim they have carried out surgical strikes?”

Sherry Rahman, a Pakistani senator and former ambassador the US, said the attack was aimed at Indian PM Narendra Modi’s re-election. “India is giving its own people a message with these strikes; this is for their electorate, the domestic voters.”

A detail of wreckage at the scene, released by Pakistan.
A detail of wreckage at the scene, released by Pakistan.
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

While exchanges of artillery and light weapons over the line are very common, intentional incursions by aircraft have not been publicly acknowledged since the two countries fought a war in 1971.

Military planes could be heard over Srinagar, the capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir, in the early hours of Tuesday morning. There has been a large troop buildup in the region in recent days and doctors have been advised to cancel leave and stockpile medicines.

Several convoys of trucks carrying heavy artillery were being transported on highways to northern Kashmir towards the line of control. Both India and Pakistan were trading heavy mortar fire across the ceasefire line on Tuesday night.

More than 300 Kashmiri separatist activists have been detained in recent days. Hours after the attack on Tuesday morning, officers from the National Investigation Agency raided the Srinagar homes of two veteran separatist leaders, Yasin Malik, who was among those detained at the weekend, and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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India, JAMMU AND KASHMIR

Indian PM: Pakistan will pay ‘heavy price’ for Kashmir bombing


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Indian PM: Pakistan will pay ‘heavy price’ for Kashmir bombing” was written by Michael Safi in Delhi and Azhar Farooq in Srinagar, for The Guardian on Friday 15th February 2019 19.17 Asia/Kolkata

India’s prime minister has warned Pakistan it will pay a “heavy price” for a suicide bombing in Kashmir that killed at least 40 paramilitaries on Thursday, the deadliest attack in a 30-year guerrilla war in the region.

Narendra Modi said the “blood of the people is boiling” after a car laden with explosives was detonated beside a convoy carrying 2,500 Indian security personnel on a major highway between the Kashmir and Jammu regions.

No official death toll has been announced but two senior police sources in Kashmir have said at least 40 security personnel died in the blast.

The bombing was claimed by the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed and immediately sparked calls for retribution against Islamabad from across Indian politics and media.

“Our neighbouring country, which has been isolated internationally, thinks such terror attacks can destabilise use, but their plans will not materialise,” Modi said, telling an audience in Delhi that security forces had been given “complete freedom” to respond.

India’s finance minister, Arun Jaitley, said there was incontrovertible evidence that Pakistan had “a direct hand in this gruesome terrorist incident” and that all diplomatic measures would be taken to isolate the country.

He said Pakistan’s most favoured nation status, a guarantee of equal treatment in trade negotiations, had been revoked – a largely symbolic gesture given the relatively small $2bn bilateral trade relationship between the countries.

The White House urged Pakistan in a statement “to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil”.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it rejected “any insinuation” that it was linked to the attack, and summoned India’s deputy head of mission to Islamabad.

Jaish-e-Mohammed, whose leader Masood Azhar lives freely in Pakistan, was founded in 2000 and has been implicated in several major attacks in India including the bombing of the country’s parliament in 2001. There was a lull in its activity after the 11 September 2001 attacks when the Pakistani government cracked down on the group.

But it has re-emerged in recent years, carrying out attacks in India including on a Punjab state airbase in January 2016, and nine months later, on an army base in Uri near the ceasefire line with Pakistan.

The Uri attack killed 19 and prompted the Indian government to announce it had carried out “surgical strikes” to destroy militant camps inside Pakistan-controlled Kashmir – a measured response that salved public anger without igniting a wider conflict.

Control of the Himalayan region, one of the most militarised places on earth, is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in full by both. China administers a smaller patch in the east.

A full-blown revolt against Indian control of Kashmir bolstered by Pakistani and Afghani fighters raged throughout the 1990s but waned after negotiations between Delhi and Islamabad.

It has been replaced by a low-level insurgency waged largely by young Kashmiris disillusioned with India’s failure to accommodate popular calls for greater autonomy or independence for the region.

Thursday’s attacker was identified as Adil Ahmad Dar, 20, a mason who joined the militancy in March last year. In a video released after the attack, Dar said he was avenging human rights violations and warned that more killing would follow.

Both the ruling Bharatiya Janata party and the main opposition Congress cancelled all political events on Friday. Indians will vote in general elections starting in April, increasing the pressure on Modi to find a carefully calibrated response.

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Haryana, India

PM Modi to lay the foundation stone of several development projects in Haryana

North India Kaleidoscope Bureau

CHANDIGARH:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Kurukshetra in Haryana on Tuesday and he will participate in Swachh Shakti- 2019. He will also inaugurate and lay foundation stone of several development projects in Haryana.

Swachh Shakti-2019

He will distribute the Swachh Shakti-2019 awards and visit the Swachh Sundar Shauchalay exhibition at Kurukshetra and address a public gathering.

Swachh Shakti-2019 is a national event to be attended by women Panches and Sarpanches from across the country. It is expected that 15,000 women will take part in Swachh Shakti event this year. The event is aimed at empowering women.

First edition of Swachh Shakti programme was launched from Gandhinagar, Gujarat by Mr. Modi on International Women’s Day. The next edition was Swachh Shakti-2018 from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh and now the third edition is being inaugurated from Kurukshetra to empower the women.

Development Projects  

Dedication to Nation of National Cancer Institute, Bhadsa, Jhajjar

The National Cancer Institute is the state of the art Tertiary Cancer care cum Research Institute, constructed at the AIIMS Jhajjar campus. The 700 bed hospital, will have different facilities like surgical oncology, radiation oncology, medical oncology, anaesthesia, palliative care and nuclear medicine, besides hostel rooms for doctors and attendants of cancer patients. The NCI will be the nodal institution for all activities related to cancer in the country and will have linkages with regional cancer centers and other cancer institutes within the country. As India’s premier institute of cancer, NCI, Jhajjar is responsible for identifying priority areas for Research & Development carrying out basic and applied research in molecular biology, genomics, proteomics, cancer epidemiology, radiation biology and cancer vaccines.

Inauguration of ESIC Medical College & Hospital, Faridabad

This will be the first ESIC Medical College and Hospital in North India. The 510 bedded Hospital will have state of art facilities.  ESIC, under the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Govt. of India provides social security to the insured persons and their beneficiaries, especially to worker population and their dependents

Laying of foundation stone of National Institute of Ayurveda, Panchkula

National Institute of Ayurveda, Panchkula is being set up at Shri Mata Mansa Devi Temple Complex in Panchkula.  It will be a national level institute for Ayurveda treatment, education and research. Once completed, it will be highly beneficial for the residents of Haryana and other nearby states

Laying of foundation stone of Sri Krishna Ayush University, Kurukshetra

Sri Krishna Ayush University is the first University related to Indian system of medicine in Haryana as well as the first University of this kind in India

Laying of Foundation stone of ‘Battles of Panipat Museum’, Panipat

The museum will honour the heroes of the various battles of Panipat. The Museum is in line with the Union Government’s initiative to honour the unsung heroes of India, who have contributed greatly to nation building.

Laying of Foundation Stone of Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay University of Health Sciences, Karnal

Prime Minister will lay the foundation stone of Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay University of Health Sciences, Karnal.

These measure are expected to give a boost to educational, health and cultural facilities in Haryana.

  The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation in association with the Haryana government is organizing the Swachh Shakti-2019. Best practices from grass root level in the rural areas for Swachh Bharat will be shared by them. The event will showcase the achievements of Swachh Bharat and the recently conducted Swachh Sunder Shauchalay, (neat and clean toilet) – a unique and first of its kind in the world campaign.   

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US NEWS

Watergate review – why the grisliest true crime ever still resonates


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Watergate review – why the grisliest true crime ever still resonates” was written by Peter Bradshaw, for theguardian.com on Monday 11th February 2019 19.30 Asia/Kolkata

The fad for true-crime documentaries continues with this investigation into the grisliest and most unpunished true crime of all. In the course of a mammoth, horribly absorbing four-hour film from Charles Ferguson we are immersed in a world of milky TV news footage, big lapels, bulbous combovers, dirty tricks, sweat, jowls and guilt. It was a time when the nation learned its president had compiled a deadly serious “enemies list” that included Paul Newman. This was the time when the US felt its face get covered by a five o’clock shadow of shame.

America’s Watergate ordeal lasted from the first break-in at the Democratic party headquarters in Washington DC on 28 May 1972, and lasted until 8 August 1974, with Richard Nixon’s blandly impenitent resignation, tendered in return for a promised presidential pardon from his successor Gerald Ford, exempting him from the criminal prosecution that put his co-conspirators behind bars.

Yet Ferguson doesn’t need to labour the point that Watergate carries on still, with the aftermath of its central mythological moment: the appointment of a special prosecutor to examine Watergate, Archibald Cox, whose existence was supposed to appease the press until the media storm blew over. But it didn’t. And then Nixon fired Cox, which simply made matters worse.

The current incumbent is all too clearly aware of the Nixonian model of bad faith and is learning from it. Don’t fire your special prosecutor – but wait, wait, wait, until the mood changes, wearied and muddled by endless denigration and chaotic pronouncements. Nixon barked his boorish insults and grotesque bigotries into secret tapes; Trump megaphones them via Twitter. Perhaps Trump has also studied that other teachable moment ­from the Watergate era when, at the end of the Yom Kippur war, Nixon took the nation to Defcon 3, the highest state of nuclear readiness, in a quarrel with the Soviet Union over its ships supposedly bringing nuclear weapons into Egypt. The details have never been made available. But the moment passed and the public stayed stubbornly interested in Watergate.

What an extraordinary story it is. Weirdly, though, Ferguson doesn’t spend that long on the central mystery: why on earth did Nixon install the tape recording machines in the first place, making what the formidable congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman compares to “mafiosi wiretaps”? Nixon may have been inspired by the fact that Lyndon B Johnson did the same thing (although Ferguson doesn’t mention this); he clearly intended to release those tapes or transcripts that put him in a good light and later may also have wished to undermine hostile witnesses by revealing tapes that showed a discrepancy between the recordings and their sworn testimony. But mostly he was just a paranoid control freak, an OCD bully who loved stockpiling material that could be used against his enemies, and did not foresee the blowback. The Watergate break-ins were, after all, a bugging expedition.

Ferguson gives us the nastiest moments from the tapes – the obscenities and antisemitic rants – and dramatises key scenes with actors, chiefly Douglas Hodge as Nixon himself. There is a weird fascination in those conversations between Nixon and chief of staff Bob Haldeman and domestic affairs advisor John Ehrlichman, in which they exchange bland statements, each suspecting the other of an incriminating trap. The resulting dialogue sounds like a cross between Beckett and Mamet.

As for Ferguson’s interviewees, there is White House counsel John Dean, who, although up to his armpits in the cover-up, got a reduced sentence in return for being a vital prosecution witness – the Henry Hill of 20th-century politics. He appears before the cameras here like a greybeard lawyer or academic, almost as if he was on the same team as Woodward and Bernstein. Good ol’ boy Nixon strategist Pat Buchanan also appears, cheerfully confident that he is not in the frame. The big no-show is of course Henry Kissinger, about whom there appears never to have been any question of involvement, a remarkably atypical example of Kissinger avoiding the inside track.

Some stars of the Watergate era were unknown to me before this film, particularly Barbara Jordan, the first African American woman from the south to be elected to the House of Representatives, who made a blazingly influential speech at the House judiciary committee hearings during Nixon’s impeachment proceedings. In the end, Nixon fell because of democratic opposition, especially from Republicans. Even sabre-toothed rightwinger Barry Goldwater was appalled at the consequences of the president’s squalid and pointless burglary. That, too, is a lesson waiting to be learned.

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Haryana, Politics

INLD supremo Om Prakash Chautala appoints new office bearers

इनेलो सुप्रीमो ओम प्रकाश चौटाला ने पार्टी के संगठनात्मक ढांचे को मजबूत करते हुए संगठन पदाधिकारियों में बड़ा फेरदल किया है। उन्होंने विधायक नसीम अहमद को मेवात का और हेमराज जागलान को पानीपत का जिला अध्यक्ष बनाया है।

इनेलो सुप्रीमो ने हलका प्रधानों और शहरी प्रधानों में भी बदलाव किया है। हलका प्रधानों में भारत मढ़हान डबकोली को इंद्री, मनजीत सिंह साधु सिंह को अम्बाला कैंट, भगवंत सिंह सौंकड़ा को नीलोखेड़ी, सतप्रकाश बीसला महम, ओमप्रकाश हुड्डा को सांपला, बलवान सिंह जमालपुर को बवानीखेड़ा, रणबीर उर्फ धीरा सरपंच को तोशाम, विनोद अरोड़ा डबवाली, महावीर गुलिया बादली, जेपी सिंह को राई, जोगिंदर मलिक बरौदा, बल्ली शेखावत सतनाली को महेंद्रगढ़, अजय खोसा नारनौल, राजा राम गोलवा नांगलचौधरी, कर्ण सिंह यादव को अटेली, कृष्ण यादव को पटौदी, बादशाहपुर के अटलवीर कटारिया, कलीराम खेदड़ को उकलाना, यशपाल बेरवाल भाटला को हांसी और रघुविन्दर को बरवाला का हलका प्रधान बनाया गया है। जसविंदर सिंह बिन्दु को कालांवाली का दूसरा हलका प्रधान बनाया गया है।चौटाला ने इसके अतिरिक्त शहरी प्रधान की भी नियुक्तियां की हैं जिसमे रोहित कश्यप को इंद्री, यशपाल तनेजा को फतेहाबाद, सतीश सैनी को महम, रोहतक का अमरजीत कपूर उर्फ नीटू, भिवानी अनिल कठपालिया, सियाराम आंतिल को सोनीपत, शमशेर कटारिया को गुरुग्राम, बलराज गर्ग को उकलाना, राजू शर्मा को हांसी और जगदीश घिराय को बरवाला का शहरी प्रधान का जिम्मा सौंपा गया है।
 इसके अलावा इनेलो सुप्रीमो ने तीन युवा जिला संयोजकों की नियुक्ति कर संगठन का विस्तार भी किया  है। जिसमें मनजीत खैरी को हिसार, मनवीर लाम्बा रेवाड़ी और राजेश यादव को महेंद्रगढ़ का युवा जिला संयोजक बनाया गया है। 
इनेलो सुप्रीमो 11 फरवरी से लेकर 20 फरवरी तक प्रदेशभर का दौरा कर जनसभाओं को भी संबोधित करेंगे। जिसमे 11 फरवरी को लाडवा, यमुनानगर, अम्बाला, 12 को कैथल, करनाल, पंचकूला, 14 तारीख को फतेहाबाद, 15 को सिरसा व हिसार, 16 फरवरी नारनौल, रेवाड़ी, 17 दादरी, भिवानी, 18 को जींद व रोहतक, 19 को मेवात, पलवल, 20 फरवरी को सोनीपत, झज्जर और गुरुग्राम में जनसभाओं को संबोधित करेंगे।

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Films

European film festivals: six of the best


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “European film festivals: six of the best” was written by Wendy Ide, for The Observer on Sunday 10th February 2019 15.30 Asia/Kolkata

Best for discoveries
Cannes
14-25May 2019

Exclusive, elite and hierarchical, Cannes doesn’t make it easy for its attendees. Tickets for the red-carpet premieres are like gold dust – some hopeful punters stand for hours in full evening dress holding placards begging for a seat – and once secured, they still have to pass muster with the infamous red carpet fashion police. No flip flops! Quelle horreur! But the smart cineaste looks away from the scrum of the main competition and towards the sidebars. The consistently excellent Director’s Fortnight is the only section open to the public. It’s also where you’ll find the edgier, newer voices.

Best for awards season contenders
Venice
28Aug-7Sept 2019

The autumn slot of this glamorous but eye-wateringly expensive event has seen it increasingly co-opted as a launchpad for the awards season big hitters. At times it seems as though Hollywood A-listers are only outnumbered by the mosquitos. Tickets are massively over-subscribed, but in theory the public can purchase seats for pretty much everything, even the gala films. The prices, however, can be prohibitive – the most expensive tickets were €45 in 2018, although cheaper options are available.

Chris Hemsworth meets fans at the San Sebastian film festival in Spain last year.
Chris Hemsworth meets fans at the San Sebastian film festival in Spain last year. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Best for foodies
San Sebastián
20-28 Sept 2019

A genteel resort town an hour or so from Bilbao, San Sebastián is a mecca for innovative Basque cuisine, as well as the location for Spain’s most important film festival. As it’s an event aimed as much at the public as at industry visitors, tickets are easily available, although they frequently sell out. The canny festival-goer will look to the thorough and well-researched retrospective programmes: a deep dive into the work of Preston Sturges remains one of my most cherished San Sebastián memories.

Best for animation
Annecy
10-15June 2019

Once a year, the animation industry congregates in this picturesque French lakeside town, near the border with Switzerland – and the animation industry likes to party. Annecy is not only the place to go to experience the very best in the medium, it’s a festival with a unique atmosphere, full of endearingly geeky traditions. Before each screening, the audience pelts the screen (and each other) with paper aeroplanes; any appearance of a rabbit in a film will be greeted with a rousing shout of “Lapin!”.

An outdoor screening at last year’s Annecy film festival.
An outdoor screening at last year’s Annecy film festival. Photograph: L Gouttenoire/CITIA/Lauriane Gouttenoire/CITIA

Best for cinephiles on a budget
Karlovy Vary
28June-6 July2019

The youthful energy of the Karlovy Vary is in marked contrast to its location, the slightly chintzy Czech spa town where 19th-century tourists flocked to bathe in the hot springs. Hardy film fans bunk in dormitories and tents, and lounge around the parks between movies. The atmosphere is more Glasto than Cannes, and the egalitarian approach means that even those on a tight budget can see plenty of films in this well-curated programme.

Best for documentaries
CPH:DOX
20-31 March 2019

Of the main European documentary festivals, Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX might just have the edge on Amsterdam’s IDFA and Sheffield’s DocFest. Its timing means it can provide a European platform for the best of the Sundance premieres, and Copenhagen makes for a lovely backdrop. It is well attended by the documentary community, so aspiring film-makers can make connections in the ticket queue.

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Business Economy Finance, CRIME, India, World

UK home secretary approves extradition of Vijay Mallya to India

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “UK home secretary approves extradition of Vijay Mallya to India” was written by Rupert Neate Wealth correspondent, for The Guardian on Tuesday 5th February 2019 08.33 Asia/Kolkata

The UK home secretary has ordered the extradition of Vijay Mallya, the Indian multimillionaire chairman of Kingfisher beer and former Force India Formula One team owner, over allegations of £1bn fraud.

Sajid Javid on Monday formally ordered Mallya, who owns two multimillion UK properties and until last year had two superyachts, to be extradited, stating that the 63-year-old businessman is “accused in India of conspiracy to defraud, making false representations and money laundering offences”.

Mallya, the self-proclaimed “king of the good times” who lives in a £11.5m mansion in the sleepy Hertfordshire village of Tewin, said he would appeal against the extradition. “I could not initiate the appeal process before a decision by the home secretary. Now I will initiate the appeal process,” he said on Twitter.

He has been fighting the extradition order and has previously dismissed the allegations that he fled India leaving a trail of £977m worth of debts as “ludicrous”. He has said he made an “unconditional” offer to pay what he owed in full in July 2018.

A judge ruled in December 2018 that Mallya had misrepresented how loans from Indian banks were used and referred the decision on his extradition to Javid.

Senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot described Mallya as a “glamorous, flashy, famous, bejewelled, bodyguarded, ostensibly billionaire playboy who charmed and cajoled these bankers into losing their common sense and persuading them to put their own rules and regulations to one side”.

Mallya is alleged to have knowingly misled largely India state-owned banks about the fortunes of his failing Kingfisher airline, before laundering the cash to fund his Formula One team and other projects. India’s enforcement directorate has been investigating the tycoon’s £977m debts linked to the airline, which went bust in 2012.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation opened a criminal investigation into Mallya in 2015 and the Metropolitan police’s extradition unit arrested him in April last year. He had entered the UK on a valid passport in March 2016.

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, has singled out Mallya, accusing him of ripping off India and Indians.

“There is no place for corruption in India,” Modi said in comments referring to Mallya. “Those who looted the poor and middle classes will have to return what they have looted.”

Modi’s government has described Mallya – who used to travel the globe on a private jet with VJM painted in gold on the engines and wingtips – as a “fugitive from justice”.

Javid’s decision to sign the extradition order was framed in India as proof of Modi’s anti-corruption bonafides. The government also recently arranged the extradition from Dubai of Christian Michel, a British businessman who India alleges facilitated the payment of kickbacks as part of a defence supply deal.

“Modi government clears one more step to get Mallya extradited while Opposition rallies around Saradha Scamsters,” tweeted the Indian finance minister, Arun Jaitley, in reference to an alleged financial fraud scandal playing out in the country’s east.

Indian public outcry over Mallya was stoked by a lavish two-day 60th birthday party in 2015 for hundreds of guests at his Kingfisher Villa, a huge beachfront bungalow in Goa.

The party, which reportedly cost more than $2m (£1.5m), included performances by the Bollywood singer Sonu Nigam and Enrique Iglesias, who sang on stage with Mallya.

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Sport, World

Trek back in time ‘to the real Nepal’

Nepal

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Trek back in time ‘to the real Nepal’” was written by Kevin Rushby, for The Guardian on Monday 4th February 2019 12.00 Asia/Kolkata

He ate all the rice. He threw rocks at the monkeys. He lied about the toilets and proved pathologically incapable of walking down a trail without veering off on some wild adventure. He sank the raft and brazenly encouraged hard drinking and ribaldry, especially among the old village ladies. Yes, Maila Gurung was undoubtedly one of the finest travel companions I have ever had the privilege to accompany.

Nepal map

He was not even supposed to come with us. We had started from Pokhara in a 4×4, just myself, guide Jagan, Tikka the porter and Chierring, a 19-year-old Sherpa lad from Kathmandu who had never been to the mountains. Pokhara was quiet, the traders eager to bargain. You could buy all the trekking equipment you’d ever need, and at vastly cheaper prices than in Europe. “The brands are mostly fake,” said Jagan, “but the quality is fine – except for high altitudes.”

The idea was to avoid the usual hiking routes, those well-worn furrows that lead to Everest Base Camp or around the Annapurna circuit. Jagan knew them all well: he’d been Everest base camp manager and reached the summit twice. Annapurna was his home patch. “There’s nothing authentic or traditional left on those routes,” he told me. “It’s all for tourists. We’re going to see real Nepal; only a couple of foreigners have been on this route.”

Maila on a verandah in his home village of Sikles.
Maila on a verandah in Sikles

We were dropped off on the boulder-strewn banks of the River Mardi, a deeply scoured Himalayan torrent whose waters end up in the Ganges. Our goal was its source, a hidden glacier right under the Annapurna massif, a six-day trek there and back. Not that we could see much of the country: clouds of imminent monsoon rain were gathering over jungle-clad ridges, all of which had to be crossed. Jagan reminisced about his season as Everest base camp manager. “When Miss India arrived, she brought a hairdryer. Most of the foreigners insist on hot showers, but base camp is on a glacier… every shower helps melt it.”

A view of the Annapurna massif from the River Mardi.
A view of the Annapurna massif from the River Mardi

“What do they eat?”

“Pizza.”

“The locals too?”

He grinned. “No way. We eat dal bhat: breakfast, lunch, dinner – always the same.”

Lentils and rice, the Nepali staple diet.

“What will we eat on this trip?”

“Dal bhat.”

That suited me. I didn’t want pizza, hairdryers and hot showers. And so here I was, trudging up 2,000 metres of rice terraces where villagers were just beginning to plant their crops: rice and lentils, of course.

Distilling the pa in Sikles.
Distilling the pa in Sikles

Eventually we merged into a stream of school students heading home and entered the village of Sikles. After five hours of ascent, even on a well-made trail, I was feeling a bit light-headed and wondering if I’d been hasty in judgment, particularly on the pizza.

The village was paved with huge stone slabs. Long flights of steps wriggled up through layers of terraces, where stone houses peeped out through tiny, glassless windows at the magnificent panorama. Opposite a small shop selling essentials was our guesthouse, another stone house surrounded by a flower-decked terrace. And coming out to meet us was the smiling owner: Maila.

Within a few minutes he convinced Chierring that the only toilet was high up the mountain, across three rivers, and challenged everyone to a dal bhat eating competition. First, however, he wanted to show us his village. There were kids chasing chickens, old ladies weaving bags from nettle fibres, and elderly men plaiting floor mats. This was a place of only young or old: many of working age spend years away, returning home rarely. Maila, however, was unusual: he hated cities, loved his village and refused to leave.

Maila on a new stretch of footpath that he helped build.
Maila on a new stretch of footpath that he helped build

“Have you ever tried pa, our home-made whisky?” he asked, leading us inside one of the houses. We were followed by all the old ladies, who had stopped weaving at the mention of the word pa. The lady of the house was sitting by a fire in the main room, tending a steaming pot.

I was handed a glass and sipped warily, unlike Maila, who wolfed down a tumbler and told a dirty joke. The old ladies began giggling. Some time later, we staggered back to the guesthouse for the dal bhat eating contest. Chierring had accepted the challenge. From the kitchen emerged two trays, each groaning under a mountain of rice. A gong sounded and Maila’s huge paw swept a shovelful of rice and dal into his mouth, followed rapidly by another. Chierring wailed, “Oh, I will lose!” And he did.

Next day, within a mile of the village, we rounded a corner and there, floating above us like a beautiful silver cloud, was Annapurna. Between us and the mountain were a stack of jungle ridges. The path climbed up flights of beautifully cut steps, then swooped down to long suspension bridges. A monkey whooped. Maila threw a rock. “I know that monkey,” he grinned. “He tried to bite me when I was building this path.”

Jagan handles the pack raft on the glacier lake, Nepal
Jagan steers a pack raft on the glacier lake

Despite his animosity to that particular creature, Maila proved to be an incredible spotter of wildlife, especially birds, of which there were many, including dozens of minivets, flying in shocking streaks of scarlet and yellow through the trees.

“Monsoon is a good time,” he grinned, flicking away a leech. I, too, could see the advantages: the jungle was decked in orchids, the waterfalls and rivers impressively powerful. Often our feet were invisible under the thick vegetation that covered the path. By late afternoon Annapurna was only occasionally visible through torn black veils of cloud. We crossed a final bridge and arrived at our home for the next two nights, the abandoned village of Hugu.

“Our traditional home,” said Maila, quickly getting a fire going under a thatched shelter. “We moved to Sikles when I was a child.”

A woman carries a cargo of animal fodder, strap around her head.
A woman uses a forehead strap to carry animal fodder

In most circumstances a downpour under leaky thatch might be dispiriting. Not in Nepal. With a good fire going, a kettle boiling and the pa ready, stories began to flow. Jagan told how he started as a porter aged 14, heaving loads of up to 60kg, a practice now outlawed.

That night I lay in my sleeping bag, musing on why this experience seemed so authentic. My conclusion was that we tourists were in the same boat as the Nepalese, sharing the same food and sleeping in the same places. We were comrades. I was carrying some of the food and my own kit.

Next morning we left at dawn for a long, magical day in the shadow of Annapurna, bashing through jungle and clambering over rocks. At noon we reached the glacial lake and launched a one-person pack raft that Jagan was determined to test. I managed to paddle out to an iceberg and stand on it. Maila, however, heavy with dal bhat and merriment, promptly sank. We lit a fire and dried him out.

Jagan and a villager in Sikles, Nepal
Jagan greets a villager in Sikles

That night, back at our camp, some honey hunters arrived and settled down around the fire with us. Their leader, Meja, refused a tot of pa. “I never drink,” he said. “Not after the leopard.”

Two years before, he said, he had left his wife alone in this same hut with a flock of sheep and gone down to Sikles, where he had drunk pa and failed to return for three nights. Meanwhile, his wife woke to find the hut surrounded by prowling leopards. For the next 72 hours they ate sheep and terrified the poor woman out of her wits. “I swore never to drink again.”

More stories followed in a long, convivial evening. I had reached the real Nepal, I decided, and made lifelong friends.

woman walking on a terrace in Sikles, Nepal
Sikles is built on a series of terraces

That night I woke in the dark. Everyone was sleeping and the fire was out. A shadow of some creature darted away – not a leopard, but a jungle cat. I stepped outside warily. Far above, the summit of Annapurna appeared to have erupted, a plume of icy sparks shooting out across the heavens. It took me a second to realise it was the Milky Way.

Four days later, back in Pokhara, we all went for dinner. Everyone else had dal bhat, but I ordered pizza, seduced by the smell of cooking cheese. When it came, however, I instantly regretted my choice. Dal bhat was what I really wanted.
• The trip was provided by Much Better Adventures, whose six-day hike to the hidden glacier costs from £350, including all accommodation, meals on the trek and guides. Flights from Heathrow to Kathmandu were provided by Kayak, which has returns from about £380

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World

European nations set to recognise Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s leader


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “European nations set to recognise Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s leader” was written by Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor, for The Guardian on Monday 4th February 2019 00.14 Asia/Kolkata

The UK, France, Germany and other European countries are expected to recognise Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela on Monday if the current president, Nicolás Maduro, has not set a date for fresh elections by then.

EU leaders, including the Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, started expressing their support for Guaidó before the midnight deadline Sunday night.

The British foreign office minister, Sir Alan Duncan, is due to fly to Ottawa to meet European and Latin American leaders in a new international contact group to discuss the most effective ways of supporting Guaidó.

Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said: “This crisis poses huge security, humanitarian and economic challenges for the entire hemisphere.”

France’s Europe minister, Nathalie Loiseau, foreshadowing the stance of most European leaders, said: “If by tonight Maduro does not commit to organising presidential elections, then France will consider Juan Guaidó as legitimate to organise them in his place and we will consider him as the interim president until legitimate elections in Venezuela [take place].”

She dismissed Maduro’s proposal of an early parliamentary election, calling it a farce, and said “the ultimatum ends tonight”.

France, Germany, Spain and the UK have been closely coordinating their support for Guaidó, assessing the best form of sanctions to press Maduro into holding the elections. None supports the kind of military intervention repeatedly suggested by the US president, Donald Trump. They regard Trump’s claim that a military option is on the table as counter-productive since it conjures up memories of past US destablisation in Latin America.

The EU as a whole was unable to come to a collective stance on Venezuela last week when the Five Star wing of the Italian coalition government objected to recognition of Guaidó.

There are divisions on the issue not just within the Italian coalition, but also within the Five Star Movement (M5S). Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s deputy prime minister and leader of M5S, defended his refusal to recognise Guaidó as interim president saying he “had not been elected by the people”.

So far the US and about 20 other countries have recognised, or are on the brink of recognising, Guaidó. But Russia, China, Turkey and Cuba have defended Maduro, rejecting outside interference as orchestrated by Trump. Canada and the Lima Group of Latin American countries aiming to find a solution to the Venezuela crisis recognised Guaidó on 23 January.

Much of the Ottawa meeting will be taken up with the humanitarian consequences of the crisis. Freeland’s diplomatic service has played a backroom role in helping organise the opposition to coalesce around Guaidó. She said: “The Maduro regime is now fully entrenched as a dictatorship.”

On Sunday Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, spoke to the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, to coordinate the call for elections. He has said the aim of the Ottawa meeting is to push for peace, democracy and stability.

One proposal is to seize “corruptly obtained” overseas assets belonging to members of the Maduro regime and use the cash to ease the humanitarian crisis as Venezuelan refugees flee abroad, such as to Columbia.

The Labour party in the UK has not recognised Guaidó, despite his being a member of Socialist International, though it has stepped up its criticism of Maduro, once a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn.

The shadow attorney general, Lady Chakrabarti, speaking on Sunday to Sky News, said: “Last year’s reporting on Venezuela is pretty damning and that’s in terms of disappearances, that’s in terms of crushing dissent, that’s in terms of reports of torture, of prisoners and political prisoners, and it is completely unacceptable.

“I think it is incumbent on people like me, as a member of the left, to call out governments and states of the left because human rights have to be applied with an even hand.”

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Arts Culture Books Features

Former Guardian and BBC journalist William Davis dies aged 85

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Former Guardian and BBC journalist William Davis dies aged 85” was written by Jedidajah Otte, for theguardian.com on Monday 4th February 2019 02.04 Asia/Kolkata

The former BBC broadcaster and Guardian journalist William Davis has died aged 85.

Born in Hanover, Germany as Gunther Kiess in 1933, Davis changed his name when he moved to the UK at the age of 16 and became a British citizen.

Davis enjoyed a successful career on Fleet Street that spanned several decades. Specialising in financial and business journalism, Davis worked for the Financial Times before being appointed City editor at the London Evening Standard. Between 1965 and 1968, Davis was economics editor at the Guardian.

In 1968 he was made editor of the satirical magazine Punch, prompting its rival Private Eye to dub him “Kaiser Bill”. He was succeeded by Alan Coren in 1977.

Davis went on to become one of the first presenters of the BBC’s World at One on Radio 4 and helped develop and present BBC Radio 2’s The Money Programme.

He wrote 20 books, and founded the in-flight British Airways magazine High Life, where he also served as editor-in-chief. Davis’ daughter Jacki described her father as “pioneering and innovative”, and a “self-made man” with a weakness for champagne, according to the BBC.

Davis appeared in an episode of the BBC’s Desert Island Discs, where he revealed that he left school aged 14 and came to Britain because his mother had married a British army sergeant. He shared his passion for cigars, and holidays in Sicily and the Bahamas, and recalled a “very grim childhood”, during which he was separated from his parents for several years.

Davis also admitted that witnessing “death and destruction” of the second world war had affected him throughout his life.

“I really don’t have much time for people, particularly young people, who complain about life today,” Davis said.

He emphasised that he was very proud to be British, and said that people who had become naturalised in Britain tended to be “more patriotic than the ones that were born here”.

Davis also spoke of the difficulties he encountered when he first came to Britain, and how he pretended to be Austrian due to “a great deal of hostility towards anything German”.

According to his daughter, Davis was a “great admirer” of Margaret Thatcher and even advised her “from time to time” when she was prime minister.

Davis died at his home in Cannes, southern France, on Saturday after heart failure. He is survived by his wife Sylvette, daughters Sue and Jacki, and grandchildren Lucinda and William.

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