Newsletter 31st May, 2018





India and Indonesia yesterday elevated their bilateral ties to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and condemned terrorism in all its forms, including cross-border terror, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held “productive discussions” with President Joko Widodo in Jakarta. India and Indonesia also signed 15 agreements, including those to boost cooperation in defence, space, science and technology, railways and health sectors, and called for freedom of navigation in the strategic Indo-Pacific region.

The two leaders discussed areas of strategic cooperation, ways towards ensuring better economic ties, closer cultural relations as well as regional and global issues of mutual interest.

Both leaders reiterated the importance of achieving a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region where sovereignty, international law, freedom of navigation and overflight, sustainable development and an open and fair trade and investment system were respected, the statement said, amidst China’s flexing of its military muscles in the East and South China seas.

The PM said India and Indonesia would double their efforts to take bilateral trade to USD 50 billion by 2025 from USD 18 billion in 2017.





Disrupting the Rajya Sabha may become difficult in future with Vice-President and House Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu set to receive the report of the expert committee set up to review rules for conduct of business in the Upper House.

Addressing a gathering after releasing Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi’s book “Straight Talk”, Naidu said the committee, he formed to review the Rajya Sabha rules to enable better functioning of the House, had started its work and would submit an interim report next month. He also took the occasion to argue that political parties should stop viewing each other as enemies and should be tolerant to diverse ideologies.

“Political parties are not enemies, they at best are rivals. By sitting with each other, you don’t get converted,” Naidu said lamenting lack of social courtesies in Tamil Nadu’s Dravidian parties — DMK and AIADMK.

“We are not enemies,” he said with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Jyotiraditya Scindia and DMK’s M Kanimozhi gracing the dais.

The remarks came at a time of debate on whether former President Pranab Mukherjee should have accepted an RSS invitation to address the Sangh cadres in Nagpur.

The Vice-President also seconded radical suggestions Singhvi has made in the 63 articles he wrote over the years and has now collated as a book. Singhvi argues that the party whip should not apply to legislation issues to enable bipartisan legislations to be enacted.





Petrol and diesel prices were cut on Wednesday by 1 paisa per litre each, the first reduction after 16 days of relentless price hikes. But the marginal decline had its share of excitement with state-owned Indian Oil Corp first announcing a reduction of 60 paise — the biggest since daily price revision was introduced in mid-June last year, only to retract it within a couple of hours citing a technical error.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “Dear PM, you’ve cut the price of petrol and diesel today by 1 paisa. ONE paisa!?? If this is your idea of a prank, it’s childish and in poor taste. P.S: A one paisa cut is not a suitable response to the #FuelChallenge I threw you last week.”

Although the decision to cut prices by just one paisa would have been taken by the oil companies, the Congress chose to attack the Prime Minister, arguing that the myth of an independent pricing formula had been busted during the Karnataka polls earlier this month. The oil companies had not raised the prices for two weeks in the run-up to the Karnataka Assembly elections, prompting the Opposition to allege a plot to help the BJP.





While many in the party are still to come to terms with former President Pranab Mukherjee’s decision to visit the RSS headquarters in Nagpur next week to address an event, some in the party are now looking forward to the speech. Former Union minister P Chidambaram and fellow Rajya Sabha MP Abhishek Singhvi on Wednesday said now that the invite has been accepted, it is the speech that is the key.

Chidambaram even had a piece of advice for Mukherjee: “Sir, now that you have accepted their invite, please go there and tell them what’s wrong with their ideology.” He also said it is futile to now ask why it was accepted.

Sidestepping a question about whether he himself would have accepted such an invite from the RSS, the former finance minister instead made a plea to Mukherjee to talk about the ills of RSS’s ideology.

Singhvi said: “It is a superficial approach to judge a man by the invitation he accepts, unless you hear what he says and also keep in mind his 60-year legacy.”





India on Wednesday sought the help of the United Kingdom for early extradition of liquor baron Vijay Mallya and former IPL honcho Lalit Modi and in locating diamantaire Nirav Modi during the third Indo-UK home affairs dialogue in New Delhi.

New Delhi also asked London not to allow the British territory to be used for anti-India activities by Kashmiri and Khalistani separatists.

Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, who left India early this year, are wanted by authorities in an alleged case of duping PNB of Rs 13,000 crore. They allegedly worked with bank officials to illegally obtain Letters of Undertaking, which were cashed overseas from different banks.









A US-based international nuclear proliferation watchdog yesterday said Pakistan’s application to the NSG should not be granted. This was stated by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in a report authored by David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Frank Pabian.

“Although there are many reasons to refuse its membership, some more obvious reasons include its ongoing illicit nuclear procurements abroad and its refusal to even minimally split its military and civil nuclear programmes,” it said. The report discusses the purpose and size of the likely enrichment plant at Kahuta and estimates the amount of enriched uranium it could produce.

While much of the world’s attention has been directed to the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea, Pakistan has expanded its nuclear complex dedicated to producing nuclear weapons, the report rued. One European official stated in late 2016 that in terms of instances of illicit nuclear-related procurements by the three countries, Pakistan has carried out the most, the report said. Over the last decade, Pakistan has expanded its nuclear weaponisation capabilities, according to this official.





China lashed out on Wednesday at renewed threats from the U.S. on trade, warning that it was ready to fight back if Washington was looking for a trade war, days ahead of a planned visit by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

In an unexpected change in tone, the U.S. said on Tuesday that it still held the threat of imposing tariffs on $50 billion of imports from China unless it addressed the issue of theft of American intellectual property.

“We urge the United States to keep its promise, and meet China halfway in the spirit of the joint statement,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, adding that China would take “resolute and forceful” measures to protect its interests if the U.S. insists upon acting in an “arbitrary and reckless manner”. “When it comes to international relations, every time a country does an about face and contradicts itself, it’s another blow to, and a squandering of, its reputation,” Ms. Hua said.

China has said it will respond in kind to threats by Mr. Trump to impose tariffs. Several U.S. officials arrived in Beijing on Wednesday for talks, according to an Embassy spokeswoman.









BSP chief Mayawati Wednesday sent keys of a bungalow on Lucknow’s Lal Bahadur Shashtri Marg to authorities via speed post in response to a notice served on her to surrender the house allotted to her as a former chief minister.

Mayawati said she was forced to send the keys along with a letter through the post as estates officer Yogesh Kumar Shukla refused to receive them.

Shukla insisted Mayawati had been allotted a bungalow on Mall Avenue, which she has to vacate as per a Supreme Court directive asking former chief ministers to vacate government houses.

Mayawati maintained the Lal Bahadur Shashtri Marg house was actually allotted to her. She said the one on Mall Avenue was allotted for BSP founder Kanshiram’s memorial. She attached a 2011 estates department order to support her claim. She said she has been living in a portion of the Mall Avenue house to ensure its security and upkeep.

Mayawati said the Mall Avenue house would be handed over to the government provided all necessary arrangements regarding security and upkeep of the memorial are made. She warned any damage to the place would cause “nationwide disturbance”.

A signboard reading Shri Kanshiram Ji Yaadgaar Vishram Sthal surfaced outside 13-A Mall Avenue after Mayawati was asked to vacate the bungalow.

Shukla called Mayawati’s claims false. “The notice served on her to vacate 13-A Mall Avenue is still valid,’’ he said.





India is likely to receive a “better monsoon” than it did in 2017, with the entire country expected to see “normal” rainfall, between 96 and 104 per cent from June to September, officials said on Wednesday.

In 2017, the country had received 97 per cent rainfall, which is considered normal.

On Wednesday, the Indian Meteorological Department updated its prediction, cutting down on the error estimate, thereby counting on better monsoon rains.

The rainfall is likely to be 100 per cent of the long period average (LPA) over northwest India, comprising Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

“Quantitatively, the country is likely to receive 97 per cent rainfall of LPA with an error estimate of plus-minus 4 per cent,” said IMD Director General KJ Ramesh. “We expect better rainfall in 2018 than it was in  2017,” he said.

The IMD in its second-stage long-range forecast on Wednesday reduced the error estimate for the rainfall from earlier “plus-minus 5 per cent” to present “plus-minus 4 per cent”.

Besides the northwest, the rainfall is likely to be 99 per cent of LPA over central India, 95 per cent over southern peninsula and 93 per cent of LPA over North-East, all with a model error of 8 per cent. July is likely to be more rainy, as the monthly rainfall over the country as a whole is likely to be 101 per cent of LPA during the month, while August is likely to see 94 per cent rainfall, the IMD said.





Twelve years after video tapes exposed a sex scandal in Jammu and Kashmir, a special court on Wednesday held five persons guilty of rape. They are former Border Security Force (BSF) Deputy Inspector General (DIG)  KC Padhi, former DSP Mohammad Ashraf Mir, Shabbir Ahmed Laway, Shabbir Ahmed Langoo and Masood Ahmed.

It let off two of the accused, former Additional Advocate General of Jammu and Kashmir Anil Sethi and businessman Mehruj-ud din Malik, giving them the ‘benefit of doubt’. The other two accused, Sabeena, who ran a brothel, and her husband Abdul Hamid Bullah, died during the course of the trial.

The scam came to light in 2006 after the police were handed two CDs showing minor Kashmiri girls being sexually exploited for money. The case was taken over by the CBI and the trial shifted by the Supreme Court to Chandigarh. The CBI unearthed a sex racket involving ministers and influential persons. With senior PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig pointing an accusing finger at then CM Omar Abdullah, the latter resigned in 2009.





Days after the BJP swept elections to rural local bodies in Balarampur in Purulia district of West Bengal, 18-year-old Trilochan Mahato, who the party said was a member of its youth wing, was found hanging from a tree at Supurdi village. Police found a note at the spot with a message in Bengali that read “at the age of 18, you are doing BJP’s politics… today, you are dead”. The same message, police said, was also scrawled on his T-shirt.

Hours later, the BJP accused the ruling Trinamool Congress of murder. BJP district president Vidyasagar Chakraborty said: “No one can be so dirty in politics like the TMC. We will fight this. Mahato was a BJP youth wing member and had actively worked during the panchayat polls.”

BJP national president Amit Shah, in a tweet, said: “Deeply hurt by the brutal killing of our young karyakarta, Trilochan Mahato in Balarampur, West Bengal. A young life full of possibilities was brutally taken out under state’s patronage. He was hanged on a tree just because his ideology differed from that of state sponsored goons.”

Rejecting the charge, the TMC said the youth’s death was the result of an “intra-party feud”.





The board of directors of ICICI Bank has buckled under pressure and ordered an independent enquiry into a raft of charges of impropriety against its chief executive Chanda Kochhar.

In a note to the stock exchanges, the bank said its board had decided to appoint an independent and credible person to enquire into a fresh set of charges that have been levelled against Kochhar by an anonymous whistleblower.

On March 28, the board of directors of ICICI Bank had issued a statement reposing “full faith in Bank’s MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar.” It went on to describe the accusations as “rumours” designed to “malign the bank and its top management”. At that time, the board had also “concluded that there is no question or scope of any favouritism, nepotism or quid-pro-quo”.

It is believed that the fresh charges made by another whistleblower are broadly linked to the ones made by Arvind Gupta. It could not be immediately ascertained if there were new dimensions to the earlier accusations that prompted the board to make a U-turn after vigorously asserting its support for Kochhar over the past two months. ICICI Bank’s latest statement to the stock exchanges, which came after market hours, said the enquiry would be comprehensive and examine all the facts. “Wherever warranted, (it would) use forensics/ email reviews and record statements of relevant personnel,” it added.





AirAsia India’s non-executive director R Venkataraman on Wednesday said he had been wrongly named “as an accused” by the CBI in the case it has registered against AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes and others over alleged violation of norms for getting international flying licences.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Venkataraman said, “In my capacity as non-executive director of AirAsia India Limited, I have been wrongly named as an accused by the CBI on operational matters where I had little or no role to play”.

He said he had been named in the FIR filed by the CBI as a result of the revenge game allegedly being played by Cyrus P Mistry against the Tata Trusts Trustees.

“It is commonly known that the present accusations qua Air Asia India find their root in baseless allegations made by Cyrus P Mistry and the Shapoor Pallonji Group against Tata Trusts Trustees (me included) and Tata Sons in his ‘revenge’ legal actions,” Venkataraman said.

The CBI on Tuesday registered a case against AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes and others over alleged violation of norms for getting international flying licences. The investigative agency said officials related to AirAsia colluded with unknown government officials during the UPA rule and tried to lobby with civil servants later to have the 5/20 rule amended.





The once all-conquering Novak Djokovic started off his second round match by serving a fault, ended the opening game with a double fault and fired plenty of wayward shots wide and long as he tried to subdue Spanish qualifier Jaume Munar. While the scorecard will show that Djokovic eked out a straightforward-looking 7-6(1) 6-4 6-4 victory, those following the action on a sweltering Court Suzanne Lenglen will know the win was anything but easy.

World No. 1 Halep fought back after a disastrous opening set to beat American Alison Riske 2-6 6-1 6-1 in their delayed first-round match. Halep, the runner-up in Paris in 2014 and 2017, slumped 0-5 down in the opening set to world No. 83 Riske, whose only win at the tournament came in 2014. The Romanian committed 16 unforced errors in the set but stepped up a gear from that point on to book a second-round match against Taylor Townsend of the United States.

Alexander Zverev eventually controlled his nerves to reach the French Open third round with a 2-6 7-5 4-6 6-1 6-2 win over Serbian Dusan Lajovic. The second-seeded German smashed his racket in frustration before finding his groove and setting up a meeting with 26th- seeded Bosnian Damir Dzumhur. Zverev has yet to reach the last-eight at a Grand Slam but his huge talent told in the end against the world No. 60.

Williams sisters won their first doubles match together since lifting the 2016 Wimbledon title, defeating Japan’s Shuko Aoyama and Miyu Kato 4-6 6-4 6-1.





Sensex 34,906 (-43), Nifty 10,614 (-19), Trading Value NSE (Rs.crores) 30,221

Nasdaq 7,462 (+66) Dow 24,668 (+306), S&P 2,724 (+34)

US$-Rs. 67.48 GBP-Rs. 89.57, Euro-Rs. 78.33, UAE Dhm-Rs.18.37, Can$-Rs. 52.09, Aus$- Rs. 50.86

GBP 0.75 /US$, Euro 0.86 /US$, Jap.Yen 108.78 /US$, Aus$ 1.32 /US$, Sing 1.34 /US$, Bang Taka 83.43 /US$, Can$ 1.29 /US$, Mal Ring 3.98 /US$,

Pak Re 115.39 /US$, Phil Peso 52.58 /US$, Russian Rouble 62.40 /US$, NZ$ 1.43 /US$, Thai Baht 32.03 /US$, Ukraine Hryvnia 25.98 /US$

Bitcoin – USD 7,415

Dollar Index 94.11 Brent Crude 77.36  BDI 1057

Gold world Spot Price USD/aoz 1,303 India (Rs. per gm 24k/22k) 3170 / 2990, Silver (Rs. Per KG) 42,900





Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. – Helen Keller





A traveling salesman finds himself stranded in the tiniest town in Australia. He knocks on the door of a little hotel. “Sorry, we don’t have a spare room,” says the manager, “but you’re welcome to share with a little red-headed schoolteacher, if that’s okay.”

“Oh, that’ll be great,” says the bloke, grinning from ear to ear. “And don’t worry, I’ll be a perfect gentleman.”

“Just as well,” says the manager. “So will the little red-headed schoolteacher.”

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