Newsletter Sept 23, 2018




 Dassault Aviation, the maker of Rafale fighter jets, and the French government on Saturday rebutted former French president Francois Hollande’s claim that the Indian government had thrust industrialist Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as an offsets partner in the contract.

The Indian government also denied it had any role in the selection of Reliance Defence even as Hollande himself seemed more circumspect a day after his remarks set off a political storm. Asked if India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault to work together, Hollande told news agency AFP that he was unaware and “only Dassault can comment on this”. He also said France “did not choose Reliance in any way”.

However, according to NDTV, Hollande’s office in France told the TV channel that he stood by his statement that the Indian government insisted on Reliance Defence as “service provider” to Dassault Aviation.

In its statement, Dassault Aviation said, “In accordance with the policy of Make in India, Dassault Aviation has decided to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group. This is Dassault Aviation’s choice…..”

The French government statement said, “The inter-governmental agreement signed on 23 September, 2016, between the French and Indian governments for supply to India of 36 Rafale aircraft covers only the obligations of the French government to ensure the delivery and quality of the equipment.”

The Indian defence ministry dismissed the controversy as “unnecessary”, sticking to its stand that Dassault Aviation is still to officially inform it of the different offsets partners in the Rs 59,000-crore contract for 36 Rafales. Under the contract, the French companies involved must plough back 50% of the contract value to India as offsets or re-investments. “As per offsets guidelines, the vendor (Dassault) is to provide the details of the offset partners either at the time of seeking offset credits or one year prior to discharge of offset obligations, which in this case will be due from 2020,” it said.

The MoD sought to raise a question over Hollande’s statement by saying that “the French media had raised issues of conflict of interest involving persons close to the former President”, alluding to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Entertainment’s deal to help finance a film with Hollande’s partner and actor Julie Gayet. “The reported statement perhaps needs to be seen in its full context,” it said.


The political fight over former French president François Hollande’s remarks on the Rafale deal escalated on Saturday with Congress president Rahul Gandhi accusing PM Narendra Modi of corruption, while BJP said Congress renegotiated the deal for its benefit. “The former French president is saying that the contract to Anil Ambani was given on the say-so of Narendra Modi… He (Hollande) is calling the Indian PM a thief,” said Rahul. “We are absolutely convinced that the Prime Minister of India is corrupt.”

Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad responded by accusing the Gandhi family of corruption. “The country’s honest and popular PM has been called a thief. No national president of a national party has used such words about a PM. He is himself chargesheeted for corruption, loot of land and shares with his mother.” He said the UPA government had finalised Rafale’s maker Dassault as the lowest bidder for supplying fighter jets in January 2012, but called for a re-examination six months later. “This was because there was no bribe,” Prasad said.

BJP president Amit Shah slammed Rahul Gandhi, questioning if he has formed an international “mahagathbandhan” (grand alliance) with Pakistan as both have been raising the same slogan, “Modi hatao” (remove Modi).

Taking to Twitter, Amit Shah posted the screenshot of a tweet of Pakistan Minister Fawad Hussain to throw barbs at Gandhi. Hussain had tagged Gandhi’s tweets attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale deal to say that they explain the “BJP-led tirade against Pakistan”.

Shah tweeted, “Rahul Gandhi says ‘Modi Hatao’. Pakistan says ‘Modi Hatao’. Now Pakistan also supports Rahul Gandhi’s baseless allegations against PM Modi. Is Congress forming an International Mahagathbandhan against PM Modi?”



In a sharp reaction to the cancellation of talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan, Imran Khan on Saturday termed India’s move as “arrogant” and “negative” to his call for a resumption of dialogue between the two countries.

He tweeted: “Disappointed at the arrogant & negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue. However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture.”

Hitting back at the Pakistan PM for his remarks, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked what else can be expected from a “person who is sitting in the position of prime minister at the directions of his country’s army”. “There will be no talks with Pakistan till our soldiers keep getting killed,” he said while addressing the media in the national capital.



The Election Commission has told the Supreme Court that “laudatory” news reports in which a political leader boasts of his achievements and appeals to the electorate to cast votes in his favour should be treated as paid news, even if there is no documentary evidence to show that money was paid. The Commission said such news items get published by candidates using their influence and it cannot be termed “unbiased” news.

“If paid news can only be determined on the basis of irrefutable documentary evidence, the subterfuge would gain uncontrollable currency and would be a major setback to the effort to curb the practice of monetising the influence that candidates could wield due to their status and network in society, thus deriving an unfair advantage,” the Commission said in its appeal challenging the Delhi HC order quashing its decision to disqualify MP cabinet minister Narottam Mishra for three years over allegations of paid news.

The HC had said that the Commission is only to adjudge whether the election expenses incurred by the candidate have been accounted for. It had said that any indirect control on contents of news would impact a citizen’s right to free speech and expression.

Challenging the order, the Commission, through its counsel Amit Sharma, said the HC erred in restricting its role in taking action to curb the menace of paid news.

It said the onus is on the candidate to establish that beneficial services being rendered to him during the campaign period were not at his behest and he must have proof that he distanced himself from such “charitable services or news at the relevant time”.





 As Maldives votes in a key presidential election today amidst a government crackdown and Opposition fears of rigging, President Abdulla Yameen said that his administration was “committed to holding free, fair and transparent elections”. “If elected, my administration is further committed to fulfilling our vision of an independent and progressive Maldives,” he said.

On Saturday, the Opposition alleged that the Maldives Police had entered their campaign headquarters in Male around 4 pm. “No court warrant was produced. They raided the building citing illegal activities. People are prevented from leaving or entering the premises,” said a message from the Opposition coalition late Saturday evening.

Maldives opposition leader and two Supreme Court judges have been arrested after the government declared a state of emergency. The charges against opposition leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom include bribery and attempting to overthrow the government.

The Indian Ocean archipelago is going into this election without two of its former presidents — 80-year-old Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who is in prison, and Mohamed Nasheed, who is in exile in Colombo. They are among a long list of politicians and members of the judiciary who are in prison or in exile, among them Yameen’s first vice president Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who in London, and Chief Justice of the country’s Supreme Court, Abdulla Saeed, who is behind bars.

Yameen’s rival, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, represents the Opposition coalition of four political parties and has served as a parliamentarian for about 25 years.

Eva Abdulla, one of the three women Opposition parliamentarians, accused the country’s election commission of committing “blatant fraud”. “President Yameen is using the entire state apparatus for his campaign. There is no distinction between the ruling party’s office and the President’s office. Government vehicles are being used to bring people for political rallies, officers of the EC are seen doing political work,” she said.



The Donald Trump administration is moving ahead with a proposal to end work permits for spouses of H-1B workers in the United States, a federal court has been told.

Spouses of H-1B visa holders whose green card applications have reached a certain milestone can get employment authorisation under a 2015 executive order. Dependents of H-1B visa holders get H-4 visas.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is on track to complete an internal process within the next three months and announce the new regulation, it said in a submission before a federal appeals court in Washington DC on Friday.



 Militants shot dead at least 29 people including women and children in an attack Saturday on an Iranian military parade claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, as Tehran accused a U.S. ally in the region of the assault.

The attack in the southwestern city of Ahvaz came as the country marked the anniversary of the start of its 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and prompted President Hassan Rouhani to warn of a “crushing response”. “The response of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the smallest threat will be crushing”, Mr. Rouhani said on his official website.

IS jihadists said via their propaganda mouthpiece Amaq that “Islamic State fighters attacked a gathering of Iranian forces” in Ahvaz.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed regional countries and their “U.S. masters” for funding and arming the separatists, issuing a stark warning as regional tensions remain high in the wake of the U.S. withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal.

“Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defence of Iranian lives,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.





 Saying that there is a need to “avenge” the “barbaric” acts carried out by the Pakistani Army and terrorists against Indian soldiers, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said on Saturday that it is time to “give it back in the same coin”, while refraining from resorting to “similar barbarism”.

“Firstly, this kind of barbaric act that terrorists of Pakistan, with the support of the Army, has been carrying out regularly, is something which is not acceptable to us and cannot be allowed to carry on. Is there a need to change strategy? I would say yes,” he told mediapersons on the sidelines of the Haifa Day commemoration parade.

“We need to take stern action to avenge the kind of barbarism that terrorists and the Pakistan Army have been carrying out against our soldiers,” said Rawat. “What we need to do is something which I would not like to say openly, but suffice to say that yes, it is time to give it back to them in the same coin, not by resorting to similar kind of barbarism, but I think the other side must also feel the same pain and, that is something which we certainly will contemplate,” he said.

The Army Chief also said that Pakistan has suffered far more casualties than India in recent times. “Whatever is happening on our side is also being given to the other side. I would suggest, you know, if you look at the kind of casualties and damage that the other side has suffered, it is far more than what we have been suffering. Let me assure you that,” he said.

“But we have done it in a very professional and a military-like manner. As I said, we do not believe in any barbaric acts. We believe in carrying out every operation in the manner in which it needs to be conducted by our soldiers,” he said.

He said the government had been fairly successful in ensuring that Pakistan was “isolated internationally”,

Reacting to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan terming India’s decision to cancel the foreign ministers’ meeting as “arrogant”, the Army Chief said: “I think that our government’s policy has been quite clear and concise. We have made no bones about the fact that talks and terrorism cannot go hand in hand. So, I think what we are following is our stated policy, which we have repeated time and again. Therefore, I think Pakistan needs to curb this menace of terrorism and not allow their soil to be used by terrorists against our people.”

On the government’s decision to celebrate September 29 as “Surgical Strikes Day”, the Army Chief said the strikes had no precedent. Pointing out the difficulties in carrying out the strikes, he said those who participate in such action need a big heart and true grit.



A day after abducting and killing three cops, Hizbul militants on Saturday issued threats specifically to 24 policemen, including two officers posted in the militancy-infested South Kashmir, asking them to quit. It asked these policemen to announce their resignation via a videotape, failing which they would be killed.

The Jammu and Kashmir Police see this as part of “psychological warfare” aimed at demoralising  the force.

The targeted killing of three policemen in Shopian district on Friday morning had triggered a series of resignations by Special Police Officers (SPOs) who made the announcement via mosques or videotapes. However, the Union Home Ministry dismissed such reports as  mere “propaganda” by militants.

The militants had swooped on Kaprin and Batagund villages in Shopian and abducted three cops — Nisar Ahmad Dhobi (38), Firdous Ahmad (28) and Kulwant Singh (35). A relative of a cop was abducted too, but was set free later.

This year, 37 policemen, including eight SPOs, have been killed by militants so far — the highest police fatalities in 12 years.



Four months after sanctioning proposals for permitting higher buildable space for commercial purposes in Mumbai, the Maharashtra government has now slashed the premiums payable for these.

Allaying concerns over lack of adequate foundation in and around Mumbai’s developed business districts, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had on May 8 sanctioned a new regulation that would offer a higher floor space index of 5 for commercial developments on residential or commercial plots in Mumbai.

In justification of the move, his government had announced that it was being done to “reassert Mumbai’s status as the country’s commercial capital” and to create space for more jobs in the city.

On Saturday, the Fadnavis government dished out another dole for commercial constructions. While the Mumbai municipality had originally proposed to collect premiums at 80 per cent of the ready reckoner (RR) values for the additional FSI availed by such constructions, the state government has now slashed this to 60 per cent.



He was returning home from Muzaffarnagar Railway Station late on August 15 evening when Shahrukh, an unregistered porter at the station, stumbled upon a large Tricolour, apparently abandoned after the Independence Day celebrations. The room he had rented in a half-built brick house, in Rampuri area of Muzaffarnagar, had no door in the front but a tin shade. With the heat unrelenting, Shahrukh thought the flag would provide a perfect screen against the sun for his family of six. So the 33-year-old brought the flag home and hung it upside down. It was the perfect length. Hung from a wire used to hang clothes, it reached right down to the ground.

Twenty-one days later, on September 5, police, accompanied by Shiv Sena men, landed at Shahrukh’s door and arrested him for violation of The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971.

Shahrukh’s aged parents and his wife Nagma say none of them, including the porter, knew hanging the flag like that was a crime. All the four are illiterate, while Shahrukh’s two children don’t go to school. Shahrukh is the only earning member.

Iqbal, a neighbour, accuses the Shiv Sena of blowing up matters. “Whatever Shahrukh did, it was out of ignorance. Police could have given him a stern warning, it would have all been forgotten.”

The office-bearer of the Sena’s Muzaffarnagar unit, Lokesh Saini, lives barely 400 metres from Shahrukh’s house. He is a signatory witness to the FIR filed in the case on behalf of the local Shiv Sena unit, at the Kotwali Police Station. Rejecting the family’s claims, Saini says, “We cannot believe Shahrukh was so illiterate that he could not recognise our national flag. Bodies of our soldiers, who lay down their lives for the honour of the country, are wrapped in this Tricolour, but for Shahrukh, it was just a piece of cloth to protect his family from the sun.”

The Sena is “committed to teach a lesson to people who have no respect for our country”, Saini says.



Self-taught filmmaker Rima Das’s ‘Village Rockstars’ has been selected as India’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars 2019, becoming the first film from Assam and the northeast to be nominated.

The film tells the story of a 10-year-old girl, Dhunu, who dreams of owning a guitar and forming a band with a group of local boys. The film, shot on a handheld camera in rural Assam, has travelled to at least 40 countries across the globe and won accolades. Earlier this year, ‘Village Rockstars’ won the ‘Golden Lotus’ (best film award) at the National Film Awards, becoming the state’s first film to win the award in three decades.



 Time is the most precious gift in our possession, for it is the most irrevocable. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer



One day, John Smith decided to go to a new golf course where no one knew him, just to get away and see if he could do better elsewhere. He hired a caddy to guide him around the course. After another day of slices, duff shots and misread putts, he was obviously upset. He turned to the caddy and said, “You know I must be the worst golfer in the world.”

The caddy replied, “I think not sir, I have heard there is a guy named John Smith from across town who is the worst player ever!”

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