PM Narendra Modi meets South Africa President, discusses ways to boost bilateral ties

PM Narendra Modi meets South Africa President, discusses ways to boost bilateral ties

Johannesburg: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday met South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and the two leaders discussed ways to expand the bilateral ties in a number of sectors, including trade and investment, IT and defence.

Following the delegation-level talks between Modi and Ramaphosa, three MoUs were signed on cooperation in exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, setting up of Gandhi-Mandela Centre of specialisation for artisan skills and agricultural research and education. Modi, who arrived here yesterday, met Ramaphosa on the sidelines of the two-day BRICS summit whose theme this year is ‘BRICS in Africa’.

“Kicking off a series of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of BRICS! PM Narendra Modi meets the host South African President Cyril Ramaphosa,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet. “Saluting the enduring legacy of Mahatma and Mandela! Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa jointly released a stamp commemorating the two iconic personalities,” he tweeted.

India and South Africa are celebrating 21 years of strategic partnership. “India and South Africa are proud inheritors of legacies of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela,” Kumar said. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Cyril Ramaphosa discussed expansion of our relationship in trade and investment, agriculture and food processing, IT, defence and people-to-people contacts,” he said. Later, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said both the nations expressed satisfaction at the growth in trade and investment, besides improvement in the people-to-people relation.

“President Ramaphosa actually said India-South Africa relations may be new in terms of re-establishment of diplomatic relations but are in fact very deep-rooted in history. Now what it requires is nurturing, it needs to be watered time to time and such meetings help in that process,” he said. Gokhale said Prime Minister Modi entirely agreed with the South African leader on this, and noted a “very positive” trend on investments and trade.

The Prime Minister said Indian companies would respond positively to investing in South Africa, as he welcomed the Indo-South African business summit, held in April, for which the Commerce and Industries minister had come here. Prime Minister Modi also took up the issue of Indian business persons facing some obstacles in terms of general work permits and inter-company transfer permits in South Africa.

“These are long standing issues that the prime minister took up,” Gokhale said, adding that the South African President has assured he would look into the matter. The Prime Minister, he said, informed Ramaphosa that India has already liberalised the visa regime “very greatly” for South Africans. On trade, Modi said among the areas which the South African companies should be exploring in india were defence food processing and health insurance, according to Gokhale. During the “very productive, very good and very warm” meeting, Modo also mentioned about the visit of the Indian Naval Ship (INS) Tarini with an all-female crew to South Africa.

“The President of South Africa in fact remarked that this (INS Tarini visit) had got very good publicity in the South African press and was seen as a sign of gender empowerment, women empowerment,” the Foreign Secretary said. BRICS is a grouping of five major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Originally the first four were grouped as “BRIC”, before the induction of South Africa in 2010.

India’s relations with South Africa date back several centuries. India was at the forefront of the international community in its support to the anti-apartheid movement. This year also marks 25 years since the resumption of India’s diplomatic relations with South Africa in 1993. This year also marks the 125th year of the Pietermaritzburg railway station ‘incident’ involving Gandhi. “2018 is a historical year for our relations, as it marks the commemoration of twenty-five years of diplomatic relations between South Africa and India,” the South African Presidency tweeted. The South African Indian-origin community numbers around 1.5 million and constitutes about three per cent of South Africa’s total population.

Toronto mass shooting carried out by Pakistani-origin man: Canadian police

Toronto mass shooting carried out by Pakistani-origin man: Canadian police

Toronto: The gunman who killed two persons and injured 13 others in a deadly mass shooting in Canada’s largest city Toronto has been identified as Pakistani-origin Faisal Hussain, according to the police. Hussain, 29, was suffering from psychosis and was getting professional help, Canada’s public broadcaster CBC News reported.

A resident of Toronto, Hussain worked in a grocery store. On Sunday, he opened fire in Toronto’s vibrant Greektown neighbourhood, killing a 10-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman. Thirteen people were also injured in the shooting, some with potentially life-altering injuries.

Later, Hussain died after a brief exchange of gunfire with the police on Danforth Avenue. It was not immediately clear whether he shot himself dead or was killed by the police. The motive behind the shooting, rare in Toronto, was also not immediately knwon.

Hussain was not on any federal watchlists associated with the national security, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said. His family, originally from Pakistan, said in a statement that their son was in the grips of untreatable and severe mental illness for “his entire life”. Neither professionals, nor medication nor therapy could help him, they said.

They said that Hussain struggled with psychosis and depression and that they were devastated by his violent actions. Toronto police executed a search warrant at Hussain’s apartment in the Thorncliffe Park area. The federal public safety minister’s office said that the police will continue to lead the investigation into Hussain’s background.

“There is no national security nexus at this time,” communications officer Hilary Peirce said. Eight years ago, Hussain had disclosed to his friend Aamir Sukhera that he was suffering from psychosis and was getting professional help, the report said. Meanwhile, there have been renewed calls for tougher restrictions on firearms after the shooting. Goodale said that the government is prepared to consider tightening handgun laws.

Laos dam disaster: 17 bodies recovered during rescue operations, informs Thai consul official

Laos dam disaster: 17 bodies recovered during rescue operations, informs Thai consul official

Champasak: The bodies of 17 people have been recovered after flash floods caused by a dam breach in southern Laos, a Thai consular official at the scene said today. A wall of water was unleashed Monday after parts of the dam were washed away, sending floods surging downstream, sweeping away homes and leaving an unknown number of people missing.

“There are 17 bodies recovered so far, but we cannot estimate the number of missing yet,” Chana Miencharoen, told AFP, adding roof-level flood waters have submerged several villages near the Xe-Namnoy dam. “All the dead are Laotian… more than 6,000 are affected from eight villages near the dam,” he said, from the relief centre in Attepeu province, where the disaster occurred on Monday.

The remote area is only accessible by helicopter and flat-bottomed boats, with roads badly damaged by the flash flooding or completely washed away. Communist Laos is criss-crossed by a vast network of rivers and scores of dams are being built or planned in the impoverished and landlocked country, which exports most of its hydropower energy to neighbouring countries like Thailand.

The South Korean partner in the hydropower project said Wednesday it discovered the upper part of the structure had washed away 24 hours before it collapsed. SK Engineering & Construction said it discovered the damage to an auxiliary dam at around 9:00 pm Sunday local time. “We immediately alerted the authorities and began evacuating (nearby) villagers downstream,” it said in a statement.

Pakistan election 2018: One dead, two injured in clashes in Swabi

Pakistan election 2018: One dead, two injured in clashes in Swabi

Peshawar: Supporters of two rival parties exchanged fire outside a polling station in Pakistan‘s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa today, killing a worker of former cricketer Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and injuring two others, police said.

The incident occured at the polling station in Nawan Kali of Swabi district after voting opened for the general elections.

According to a police officer, a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf worker was killed as party activists clashed with Awami National Party supporters. In a separate incident, four persons were injured in a cracker blast outside a political camp in Larkana.

French President Emmanuel Macron orders office reorganisation over protester beating row

French President Emmanuel Macron orders office reorganisation over protester beating row

Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron has ordered a staff shake-up after a video emerged showing his now sacked aide beating up a protester, officials said. Under growing pressure, Macron gathered several ministers together on Sunday to discuss the row, BBC reported.

Alexandre Benalla, who was Macron’s top bodyguard, is seen dragging away a woman and then beating a man during May Day protests in Paris. He has been charged with group violence and illegally wearing a police badge. Benalla was fired on Friday. An official said Macron had described the incident “unacceptable” and promised there would be “no impunity”. Senior presidential official Alexis Kohler is to look into reorganising Mr Macron’s private office so as to prevent a repeat of the incident, unnamed officials said.

The French presidency has been accused of being aware of the incident for some time, trying to cover it up, and failing to act swiftly against Benalla. Three policemen have also been charged in connection with the incident. They were questioned on Saturday for allegedly leaking security footage to try and prove Mr Benalla’s innocence. Vincent Crase, an employee of Macron’s La République en Marche (Republic on the Move) party, is also being investigated after he appeared in the video.

Public outrage has been stoked by additional footage that appears to show several police officers watching the incident without intervening. Interior Minister Gérard Collomb is expected to be questioned on the issue in parliament on Monday. The video was posted on social media in May, but the case became a political scandal after Le Monde newspaper revealed that the attacker was Benalla, aged 26. A former bodyguard of Macron, he was hired as an aide to the president’s chief of staff after last year’s election. He was then given an apartment in an upmarket Paris district and a chauffeur-driven car, French media say. He also had the highest security clearance to parliament.

Suicide bombing in Kabul airport kills 14, Afghanistan Vice President unharmed

Suicide bombing in Kabul airport kills 14, Afghanistan Vice President unharmed

Kabul: A suicide bomber killed at least 14 people and wounded 60 at the entrance to Kabul international airport on Sunday, officials said, as scores gathered to welcome home Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum from exile.

Senior government officials, political leaders and supporters were leaving the airport after greeting the powerful ethnic Uzbek leader and former warlord when the explosion happened. “This is the first time I have seen a suicide attack,” one witness told AFP. “People were collecting human flesh with their hands,” he said, shaking as he spoke. “What is going on in Afghanistan?” Dostum, clad in a Western suit and sunglasses and travelling in an armoured vehicle, was unharmed, said his spokesman Bashir Ahmad Tayanj.

Kabul Police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said 14 people had been killed and 60 wounded, adding that nine members of the security forces and traffic police were among the dead. The suicide bomber was on foot, interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said, adding that civilians, including a child, and security force members were among the casualties. Dostum, who is linked to a catalogue of human rights abuses in Afghanistan, was mobbed like a celebrity as he left the chartered plane from Turkey, where he has lived since May 2017.

His return, which has been the subject of much speculation, comes amid violent protests in several provinces across northern Afghanistan, his traditional power base. Thousands of Dostum’s supporters have taken to the streets in recent weeks, shuttering election and government offices and blocking sections of highways to demand the release of a pro-government militia leader and call for Dostum’s return. Expectations of the return did little to quell the unrest, with protesters vowing Sunday to continue demonstrating until the burly leader of the Uzbek ethnic minority tells them otherwise.

“We don’t trust the government. We will continue our protests unless General Dostum tells us to stop,” Ehsanullah Qowanch, a protest leader in Faryab province, told AFP. Qowanch also repeated calls for the release of Nezamuddin Qaisari — a district police chief and Dostum’s provincial representative in Faryab — whose arrest earlier this month ignited the protests. Another protester, Massoud Khan, said: “We have been on the streets for 20 days now. We are not going to stop our protests unless our demands are met.” – ‘Known killer’ – Observers say President Ashraf Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, gave the green light for Dostum to come home to stabilise the north and secure Uzbek support before next year’s presidential election, which he is widely expected to contest.

Dostum left Afghanistan in May 2017 after he was accused of organising the rape and torture of a political rival. He had denied the allegations and said his departure was for medical check-ups and family reasons. Ghani in 2009 described Dostum as a “known killer”. Yet he chose him as his running mate in the 2014 presidential election, underlining the sometimes uncomfortable ethnic realities of Afghan politics.

Presidential spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri said Saturday that Dostum had been “treated” and would resume his duties upon his return. Seven of Dostum’s bodyguards have been convicted of the sexual assault and illegal imprisonment of Ahmad Ishchi, a former governor of the northern province of Jowzjan, in 2016. Dostum allegedly had Ishchi abducted in Jowzjan and then kept him hostage in his private compound for several days, where the captive was said to have been tortured and sodomised.

Chakhansuri deflected questions about whether Dostum would face charges over the incident, saying “the judiciary is an independent body, the government does not interfere in their decisions”. Dostum is one of several controversial figures whom Kabul has sought to reintegrate into mainstream politics since the US-led invasion in 2001. His heroic status in the north belies the barbarities for which he is known. Dostum, who helped the United States oust the Taliban regime in 2001, allegedly allowed hundreds of Taliban prisoners to be suffocated in shipping containers.

Pakistan Army asks Supreme Court to take action after judge blames ISI for interference

Pakistan Army asks Supreme Court to take action after judge blames ISI for interference

Islamabad: The Pakistan Army on Sunday asked the Supreme Court to take action, a day after a high court judge accused the country’s powerful ISI spy agency of meddling in the affairs of the judiciary and pressuring the chief justice and other judges to give favourable verdicts.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad high court judge had accused the all-powerful spy agency ISI of meddling in the affairs of the judiciary and pressuring the chief justice and other judges to secure favourable verdicts. The specific allegation is that the ISI was manipulating judicial proceedings in several cases, including that of ousted premier Nawaz Sharif. “Their [ISI] personnel get benches formed at their will,” Justice Siddiqui had alleged.

He had further claimed that the spy agency had approached Islamabad HC Chief Justice Muhammad Anwar Khan Kasi and said: “‘We do not want to let Nawaz Sharif and his daughter come out [of the prison] until elections, also do not include Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui on the bench [hearing Sharifs’ appeals]’.” Army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor, in a statement on Sunday, said that an honourable judge had levelled serious allegations against state institutions, including judiciary and the premier intelligence agency.

In order to safeguard the sanctity and credibility of the state institutions, the Supreme Court has been requested to initiate appropriate process to ascertain the veracity of the allegations and take actions accordingly, he said in the statement. Earlier Chief Justice Saqib Nisar also took serious notice of Justice Siddiqui’s remarks. The top judge also ordered the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to provide the complete record of the speech. Justice Siddiqui also claimed that he was approached by the ISI with an offer to make him the chief justice of the Islamabad High Court.

FIFA World Cup 2018: Russia jails Pussy Riot members for pitch invasion during final match

FIFA World Cup 2018: Russia jails Pussy Riot members for pitch invasion during final match

Moscow: Russia has jailed four members of Pussy Riot feminist punk group for 15 days after they invaded the pitch during the World Cup final dressed in police uniforms. A Moscow court sentenced Veronika Nikulshina, Olga Kuracheva, Olga Pakhtusova and Pyotr Verzilov to 15 days in police cells and also banned them from visiting sports events for three years, Mediazona court news site reported last night.

They were found guilty of “grossly violating the rules for spectators’ behaviour” and given the maximum punishment possible under the charge. Verzilov is the founder of Mediazona website, which reports on trials of rights activists.

The four ran onto the pitch at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium on Sunday and briefly halted play in the second half of the match between France and Croatia, watched by President Vladimir Putin and world leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron.

Pussy Riot immediately posted messages on social media claiming responsibility for the protest and issuing a list of six political demands. “Let all political prisoners free,” said the first. Others included an end to arrests at peaceful rallies and to “allow political competition in the country”.

Pussy Riot is most famous for performing an anti-Putin protest song in a central Moscow church in February 2012. Three of the group’s members were convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” at a trial that attracted global media attention and drew protests from rights groups. Group members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were released after serving 22 months of their two-year sentences. The other convicted member Yekaterina Samutsevich was given a suspended sentence.

Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin one-day-summit costs over Rs 2 crore for food and hospitality!

Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin one-day-summit costs over Rs 2 crore for food and hospitality!

Washington DC: US President Donald Trump’s recently-concluded summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Finland was a costly affair. The US State Department made a lot of new purchase orders specifically for the summit.

According to federal documents, the hotel bill was a staggering $128,681.39 (Around Rs 88.12 lakh) and tech support was $100,972.50 (Around Rs 69.15 lakh), which also included an additional $12,000 (Rs 8.21 lakh) alone for laptop/printer rentals, reported TMZ.

Interestingly, Trump, who is well-known for criticising media time and again, spent a hefty amount of $52,703.38 (Around Rs 36.23 lakh) on feeding them.

The US government spent $15,913.35 (Around Rs 10.94 lakh) on Secret Service’s ballistic glass installation and removal. Also, a $56,000 (Around Rs 38. 50 lakh) was shelled by the government for paying the airport hangar rental fee. The US government in total spent a whopping $302,124.62 (Around Rs 2.07 crore) for a one-day summit.

JuD chief launches poll campaign as Sharif’s imprisoned

JuD chief launches poll campaign as Sharif’s imprisoned

Lahore : As former Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, sits behind bars, Mumbai terror attack mastermind and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed openly campaigns for the country’s upcoming general election.

Saeed inaugurated several offices in Lahore and canvassed for the candidates of Milli Muslim League (MML) contesting the elections, scheduled for July 25.

On his arrival at Iqbal Town in a huge caravan comprising motorcycles, jeeps and trucks, he received a rousing welcome and people showered rose petals on him.

While Sharif and daughter, Maryam, have been sent to jail on corruption charges, a designated terrorist, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, is not only free but actively seeks votes for the polls, targeting India and the US.

Saeed’s son, son-in-law and 13 women are among 265 JuD candidates contesting on Allaha-u-Akbar Tehreek (AAT) platform on national and provincial assemblies seats across Pakistan. Saeed, carries a bounty of US $10 million for his role in terror activities, is himself not contesting the election.

Addressing his supporters, Saeed praised the audience for their support to MML. He said, “MML will make Pakistan country of Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam Mohd Ali Jinnah. This black chapter will be coming to an end now and world will see new enlightened chapter.”

Other senior leaders of JuD also addressed the meetings. Mohammad Yaqub Sheikh, candidate of NA-125 stated Saeed fielded MML candidates for revival of the ideology of Pakistan, service to humanity, freedom of Kashmir and the challenges being faced by Pakistan.