Newsletter 13th June, 2018





Brash, impulsive leaders who only a few months ago taunted each other across a nuclear abyss, US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea set aside their threats in a gamble to show that for now, at least, personal diplomacy can counteract decades of enmity and distrust.

Emerging from a day of talks in Singapore, Trump said he was suspending joint military exercises with South Korean forces.

Asked if Kim had agreed to denuclearise, Trump said he expected the process to start “very, very quickly” and it would be verified by “having a lot of people in North Korea”.

He said Kim had announced that North Korea was destroying a major missile engine-testing site, but the economic sanctions on Pyongyang would stay in place for now.

Trump’s decision to suspend the war games – which he described as “very expensive” but also “very provocative” given the continuing negotiations – appeared to take South Korea by surprise.

It was also a remarkable bet by Trump that he can persuade Kim to follow through on pledges to surrender his nuclear weapons that are almost identical to those the North had made more than once- and broken – in the past.

“We’re very proud of what took place today,” Trump said. “I think our whole relationship with North Korea and the Korean Peninsula is going to be a very much different situation than it has in the past.”

In a televised ceremony in which the two leaders signed a joint statement, Kim thanked Trump for making their face-to-face talks possible. “We had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind. The world will see a major change,” he said. In the statement, Trump “committed to provide security guarantees” to North Korea and Kim “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”.

But the statement did not go much further than previous ones and was short on details, including any timetable or verification measures.

It said the two nations would hold “follow-on negotiations” led by secretary of state Mike Pompeo and a high-level North Korean official “at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes” of the summit meeting.

Several experts said the meeting had failed to secure any concrete commitments by Pyongyang towards denuclearisation. Nor did the joint statement refer to human rights in one of the world’s most repressive nations.





The Trump-Kim summit opens up diplomatic opportunities for India, and New Delhi was quick to welcome the Singapore meeting, describing it as a “positive development” and hoping the “outcomes would be implemented, thus paving the way for lasting peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula”.

India’s interest in the summit was encapsulated in the foreign ministry’s reaction, “We also hope that the resolution of the Korean Peninsula issue will take into account and address our concerns about proliferation linkages extending to India’s neighbourhood.” A far from subtle hint at Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

India would hope that de-nuclearisation would help to expose the proliferation conduits between North Korea, China and Pakistan that has been largely responsible for setting Pakistan off on its missile race.





Senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders Sanjay Singh, Atishi Marlena and Saurabh Bharadwaj addressed a press conference on Tuesday regarding the “strike” called by IAS officers, and demanded to know why Lt Governor (L-G) Anil Baijal has not taken any action yet.

This comes as Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Cabinet colleagues have been camping since Monday, in the waiting room at the lieutenant governor’s office. Their demands include a direction to IAS officers to end their four month old “strike”

The IAS Association secretary Manisha Saxena has termed the allegations by Kejriwal that the IAS officers in Delhi are on strike as “unwarranted and baseless” and “unfortunate”. “We wish to reiterate and clarify that no officer/official in Delhi is or has been on strike subsequent to the unfortunate assault of the chief secretary on 19 February at the chief minister’s residence by the MLAs,” she said. “The concerned officers have been attending all Cabinet meetings, statutory meetings and meetings of importance affecting the public. They have also been regularly briefing the ministers for Assembly questions.”

However, Saxena accepted that the officers are not attending routine meetings called by the ministers and the chief minister. “The reasons being that they (the ministers) have failed till date to give any assurance regarding safety, security, dignity and respect to the officers, including women officers,” she added.

“We are not sitting here for ourselves. We are sitting here for the people of Delhi, for schools, water, mohalla clinics, so that the people of Delhi get the facilities,” Kejriwal said in a video message from LG’s office.

The BJP and Congress slammed Kejriwal, terming his ‘dharna’ at the L-G office a “mockery of democracy” and a “drama”.





Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday irked the ruling BJP with his remarks that he was the first to visit former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in AIIMS even though the latter was a political rival. Gandhi made the reference while attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “disrespecting his elders”.

Gandhi later tweeted his thoughts that provoked BJP leaders who hit back. “Ekalavya cut off his right thumb because his guru demanded it. In the BJP, they cut down their own gurus. Humiliating Vajpayeeji, Advaniji, Jaswant Singhji and their families is the Prime Minister’s way of protecting Indian culture,” said Gandhi on Twitter, posting a video that captured Modi’s mannerisms vis-à-vis mentor LK Advani pre and post 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

“Who was the guru of Prime Minister? LK Advani but Advani ji is not given due respect in any function. We have always fought against Advani ji and defeated him in 2004 and 2009. But who has protected him? The Congress has. Who fought against Vajpayee ji? The Congress and yet when Vajpayee ji is ailing I was the first to see him in the hospital because it is Congress culture to respect elders and I am a soldier of the Congress,” Gandhi said, attracting rebuttals from BJP’s Anil Baluni who described Gandhi’s remarks as “the lowest level of politics”.









President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he would soon like to have a “real deal” with Iran, weeks after he unilaterally pulled the US out of the landmark agreement signed by the Obama administration along with other world powers.

Trump last month withdrew from the deal, terming it as the “decaying and rotten” agreement.

Addressing a conference after the Singapore summit yesterday, Trump said he hoped relations could also improve, in time, with Iran. “I hope that, at the appropriate time, after the sanctions kick in — and they are brutal what we’ve put on Iran — I hope that they’re going to come back and negotiate a real deal because I’d love to be able to do that but right now it’s too soon to do that,” Trump said.

Iran has said that the 2015 nuclear deal with the US and other key world powers “cannot be renegotiated in any way”. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran “cannot interact” with the US government because it does not stick to its commitments.





A top aide to US President Donald Trump apologised on Tuesday for asserting that a “special place in hell” awaited Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, following the acrimonious conclusion of a weekend G7 summit.

“Let me correct a mistake I made,” White House economic advisor Peter Navarro was quoted as saying by reporters at a Washington event organised by The Wall Street Journal.

“I used language that was inappropriate,” he said.

Navarro over the weekend had joined administration officials in lashing out at Trudeau following the weekend’s chaotic end to the Group of Seven summit in Quebec at which major economies clashed over tariffs.









In an apparent suicide, spiritual leader Bhaiyyuji Maharaj was on Tuesday found dead with a gunshot wound in his temple at his Silver Spring Colony residence in Indore. In a short note believed to be left behind by him, Bhaiyyuji talked about stress and being fed up with life, but did not spell out a reason for the same.

Bhaiyyuji Maharaj was among the five ‘sadhus’ recently appointed as ministers of state.

The 50-year-old was a former model and worked as a marketing executive before taking to preaching, a calling that gave him immense clout and a following cutting across political lines, mostly in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

The Congress demanded a high-level probe into the suicide. Party spokesman Manak Agarwal claimed that ever since Bhaiyyuji refused to accept the perks that came with a minister of state status given to him by the state government recently, people linked to the BJP had been putting pressure on him to work for the party.

Bhaiyyuji had lost his wife Madhvi in 2015. After publicly talking about taking sanyas, he had married a much younger disciple, Dr Ayushi Sharma, in April 2017, taking his followers by surprise. He had said he was marrying for the second time because he had a young daughter. Now a teenager who studies in Pune, the daughter was reportedly unhappy with his decision to remarry and there was talk about dispute over his property.





A Bhiwandi court in Maharashtra Tuesday framed charges against Congress president Rahul Gandhi for allegedly making defamatory remarks against the RSS at an election rally in 2014.

While Rahul pleaded not guilty, charges were framed after Rajesh Kunte, secretary of the Bhiwandi unit of the RSS, filed a complaint against Rahul for saying that the RSS was responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

The court also agreed to conduct the case as a detailed summons trial and not a summary trial following an earlier application by Rahul’s lawyers. The matter will be heard next on August 10, which, Rahul’s lawyers said, would not require his presence.

Talking to the media later, Rahul said: “Let the government keep filing cases against me. The current government is just run by around 10 -15 rich people who are making all the profits. Modiji will not talk about the fuel price hike.”





There was a sharp political divide at a meeting Tuesday of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance when BJD member Bhartruhari Mahtab sought to know the fate of the panel’s draft report related to demonetisation and BJP members objected, calling it a “biased” draft report.

Panel chairman and Congress veteran Veerappa Moily said he would want a final report after consensus.

As the committee took up the scheduled agenda, RBI Governor Urjit Patel said the RBI needed more powers to oversee public sector banks. The members questioned him for four hours on the issues concerning the banking sector, challenges and the way forward and the non-performing assets of banks.

Patel, in his written submission to the committee in response to questions put to him earlier, maintained that the RBI had inadequate control over PSBs. He said the RBI should have the powers to remove and appoint the chairman and managing directors; grant licences and impose conditions while giving them; approve the appointment, re-appointment and termination of appointment of a chairman, managing director or wholetime directors of a manager or a chief executive officer; call a meeting of directors of the bank concerned, depute one or more of its officers to board meetings, appoint observers and require the bank to make changes in the management the RBI may consider necessary; remove managerial and other persons from office; and, supersede the board of directors.

The RBI Governor told the committee that the major challenge faced by the Indian banking sector today was on account of the stress in asset quality faced by the scheduled commercial banks, which account for 88 per cent of the banking system.

Some members sought to know the reasons for recent instances of ATMs running out of cash and asked Patel why enough steps had not been taken to tackle frauds. Patel told the panel he was confident that they would be able to tide over the crisis.

Regarding the Letters Of Undertaking issued for years without collateral by the PNB branch which went unnoticed, Patel was learnt to have said that it was pertinent to recognise that the primary responsibility of understanding risks undertaken by the bank and ensuring that the risks were appropriately managed through necessary risk mitigation controls, etc, clearly rested with the board of directors of the bank concerned.





A group of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) members tried to vandalise the west gate of the Taj Mahal on Sunday alleging that the Archeological Survey of India is blocking the way to a 400-year-old Shiva temple while constructing a closed area for the Taj Mahal.

A video footage of the incident shows VHP workers with hammers and iron rods trying to vandalise the western entrance of the Taj Mahal (on Basai Ghat) even as they removed the turnstile gate installed by the ASI. The right-wing activists were also raising slogans against them. However, police said there’s an optional path to the Siddheshwar Mahadev Temple on the Basai Ghat, but the right-wing members weren’t satisfied with the explanation.

Meanwhile, after the ASI lodged a complaint, an FIR was registered on the same day against five members of the VHP and the 20-25 of their unidentified associates for rioting, assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty and under the section 7 of Criminal Law Amendment Act and section of Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.





The government is considering revising the terms of sale for Air India, including offering a 100 per cent stake, after its latest attempt to sell 76 per cent of the debt-ridden airline failed to draw even a single bid.

Transaction advisor EY has cited the clause of the government holding a minority stake in the state carrier as the biggest reason for the failed disinvestment bid.

In its report to the government, EY listed four reasons that proved to be a deal-breaker — the reluctance to sell 100 per cent, a clause to retain employees for a year, the insistence to operate the airline at an arm’s length basis for three years and reluctance of Indian airlines to go for an inorganic expansion.





AT&T Inc won approval from a US court on Tuesday to buy Time Warner Inc for $85 billion, without conditions, allowing AT&T to compete with internet companies that dominate digital advertising and providing new sources of revenue.

The planned deal is seen as a turning point for a media industry that has been upended by companies like Netflix Inc and Google which produce content and sell it online directly to consumers, without requiring a pricey cable subscription. Distributors including cable, satellite and wireless carriers all see buying content companies as a way to add revenue.

The ruling could also prompt a cascade of pay TV companies buying television and movie makers, with Comcast Corp’s bid for some Twenty-First Century Fox Inc assets potentially the first out of the gate.

The merger, including debt, would be the fourth largest deal ever attempted in the global telecom, media and entertainment space, according to Thomson Reuters data. It would also be the 12th largest deal in any sector, the data showed.

“I conclude that the government has failed to meet its burden of proof,” District Court Judge Richard Leon told the court. He called one of the government’s arguments against the deal “gossamer thin.”

The judge in a scathing opinion urged the U.S. government not to seek a stay of his ruling, saying it would be “manifestly unjust” to do so and not likely to succeed.





After drawing criticism for saying Hindus were “‘terrorised” by Islam over 2,000 years, Michelin-star chef Atul Kochhar Tuesday issued an apology for his remarks. Recognising the inaccuracies of his statement, he said it was insensitive and wrong. Kochhar had waded into the controversy over an episode of Quantico starring Indian actor Priyanka Chopra which showed Indian nationalists trying to frame Pakistan in a terror plot. He was targeted on social media for his remarks — now deleted — and called out for bigotry. Kochhar, of Indian origin, is the head chef of a popular restaurant in Dubai.

“There is no justification for my tweet, a major error made in the heat of the moment on Sunday. I fully recognise my inaccuracies that Islam was founded around 1,400 years ago and I sincerely apologise. I am not Islamophobic, I deeply regret my comments that have offended many,” Kochhar said.

Despite his apology, Kochhar may be prosecuted for his comments. According to local media reports, online comments found to be spreading hate, especially in connection with Islam and Muslims, are a criminal offense. It could draw a fine of up to 1 million dirhams and up to five years imprisonment.





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At a dinner party, one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely. – W. Somerset Maugham





At a luncheon in Taipei, a visiting British minister was asked to say a few words. His address was to be translated by an interpreter sentence by sentence.

“I want you to know,” he began, “I’m tickled to death to be asked here today.”

A look of panicked confusion appeared on the interpreter’s face. “This poor man,” he said in Chinese, “Scratches himself until he dies, only to be with you today.

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