INDIA CALLS FOR EFFORTS TO DEFUSE TENSIONS AROUND UKRAINE
India was among the handful of countries at an emergency UN Security Council discussion that did not outright criticise Russia for its recognition of the two breakaway regions of Ukraine on Monday night.
India’s Permanent Representative (PR) TS Tirumurti sought “restraint on all sides” and reiterated India’s consistent position that seeks an immediate de-escalation of tensions while “taking into account the legitimate security interests of all countries and aimed towards securing long-term peace and stability in the region and beyond”.
Pointing out that over 20,000 Indians live and study in different parts of Ukraine, including in its border regions, the senior Indian diplomat strongly emphasised that the vital need of the hour is to maintain peace and security as well as intensify diplomatic efforts to find a mutually amicable solution at the earliest. “We can’t afford military escalation. Diplomacy provides the basis for a solution. We need greater efforts to find common ground for implementation the of Minsk agreement including its key security and political aspects. Constructive diplomacy is the need of the hour,” he underlined.
Tirumurti said the issue could be resolved only through diplomatic dialogue and wanted “space” to be given to recent initiatives such as the trilateral contact group and Normandy format which seek to defuse tensions.
The India stand was parallel to that of three other countries – Brazil, the UAE and China - out of the 15 members of the UNSC while Russia backed its own actions announced by President Vladimir Putin in a long live address which he ended by recognising the two breakaway regions and signing a decree of peace and friendship with their respective leaders at a spartan ceremony at the Kremlin.
Mexico, Ireland, Gabon did not completely subscribe to the Western position. But it was clear from the speeches of their Permanent Representatives that they did not approve of the Russian action though they left the door open for diplomacy as did Germany.
Albania, the US, the UK, Ghana, Kenya, Norway and France were strongly critical of Russia.
JAISHANKAR TARGETS CHINA: ‘GREATER POWER SHOULD LEAD TO RESTRAINT, RESPECT FOR SOVEREIGNTY’
Underlining that “greater power and stronger capabilities” should lead to “responsibility and restraint”, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in Paris on Tuesday that this means “respect for international law” and “territorial integrity and sovereignty”, in comments seen to be directed at China for the aggressive behaviour along the India-China border.
While he did not name China, Jaishankar also said this means “economics free of coercion” and “politics free from the threat or the use of force”, “observing global norms and practices”, and “refraining from making claims on the global commons” — all oblique references to China’s aggression in India’s neighbourhood, South China Sea, Taiwan and against Australia.
Addressing the EU Ministerial Forum on Indo-Pacific in Paris, Jaishankar told the 27-nation grouping that it is important to deal with the challenges in the region collectively, saying they could extend to Europe as “distance is no insulation”. The opening session was attended by his counterparts from France, Japan, Cambodia and Indonesia.
This is the third time in the last ten days that Jaishankar has spoken out against China on foreign soil — he is usually very diplomatic in his choice of words, especially on China, more so while speaking overseas.
It is in line with his sharp remarks in Australia on February 12, where, with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne by his side, Jaishankar slammed China for “disregarding” the “written agreements” with India on not massing troops at the border and said it is “an issue of legitimate concern for the entire international community”. On February 19, again without naming China, Jaishankar criticised Beijing over debt-trap diplomacy and cautioned countries in the neighbourhood against falling into that trap and making “informed decisions”.
PAKISTAN PM IMRAN KHAN WANTS TO DEBATE NARENDRA MODI ON TV TO ‘RESOLVE DIFFERENCES’
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday that he would like to have a TV debate with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to resolve differences between the two neighbouring countries.
Khan made the remarks during an interview with Russia’s state-run television network RT on the eve of his maiden two-day visit to Moscow—the first by a Pakistani premier in over two decades—during which he will hold talks with President Vladimir Putin and review exchange views on major regional and international issues.
“I would love to debate with Narendra Modi on TV,” Khan said in response to a question.
He added that it would be so good for over a billion people of the subcontinent if differences between Pakistan and India could be resolved through a debate.
COVID DASHBOARD – INDIA
As of 0800 IST / Feb 23
from mohfw.gov.in ,
New Cases on Tuesday 15,102
Active Cases 1,64,522 (16,553)
Total Deaths (Deaths Yesterday) 5,12,622 (239)
Total Vaccination: 176.19 Crores (+33,84,744)
U.S. AND ALLIES IMPOSE SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA
The United States and its allies on Tuesday swiftly imposed economic sanctions on Russia for what President Biden denounced as the beginning of an “invasion of Ukraine,” unveiling a set of coordinated punishments as Western officials confirmed that Russian forces had begun crossing the Ukrainian border.
Speaking from the White House, Biden condemned President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and said the immediate consequences for his aggression against Ukraine included the loss of a key natural gas pipeline and cutting off global financing to two Russian banks and a handful of the country’s elites.
“Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belonged to his neighbors?” Biden said on Tuesday afternoon, joining a cascade of criticism from global leaders earlier in the day. “This is a flagrant violation of international law and demands a firm response from the international community.” Biden warned Mr. Putin that more sanctions would follow if the Russian leader did not withdraw his forces and engage in diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.
But that prospect remained dim by the end of the day, as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken cancelled plans to meet with the Russian foreign minister on Thursday, saying that it does not “make sense” to hold talks while Russian forces are on the move.
“To put it simply, Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine,” Biden said, adding, “He’s setting up a rationale to take more territory by force.”
Financial markets around the world wobbled on Tuesday in the wake of the Russian actions and the response from Western govts.
Biden and his counterparts in Germany, England and other European nations described the package of global sanctions as severe. They include financial directives by the United States to deny Russia the ability to borrow money in Western markets and to block financial transactions by two banks and the families of three wealthy Russian elites.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany put the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline on hold. The $11 billion conduit from Russia to Germany — completed but not yet operational — is crucial to Moscow’s plans to increase energy sales to Europe. European Union foreign ministers and the British govt approved sanctions against legislators in Moscow who voted to authorize the use of force, as well as Russian elites, companies and organizations.
“It will hurt a lot,” said the E.U. foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles.
The govts of Japan, Taiwan and Singapore also issued a joint statement saying they would limit technology exports to Russia in an effort to pressure Putin with damaging restrictions on his ambitions to compete in high-tech industries.
ABOUT UKRAINE’S BREAKAWAY AREAS
On Monday, Russian President Valdimir Putin formally recognised the Luhansk “People’s Republic” and Donetsk “People’s Republic”, two breakaway areas of the Donbass region of Ukraine. Putin has ordered Russian troops into these areas for “peacekeeping”.
Luhansk and Donetsk are areas in south-eastern Ukraine, both major industrial centres in an area collectively known as the Donbass that borders Russia. They had declared themselves independent of Ukraine in 2014, encouraged by Russia’s annexation of Crimea, but had remained unrecognised by Moscow and the international community. Western intelligence reports have spoken about the presence of Russian troops in these two areas since then, but this was denied by Russia.
Donbass has the largest coal reserves in Ukraine. Almost 40% of the people in these two areas are ethnic Russians, forming the largest minority in the Donbass region. The Russian language is today spoken by a majority of the people in the both Donetsk and Luhansk, as even non-native Russians identify themselves as Russian speakers. The affinity with Russia is pronounced both in culture and in politics.
After Ukraine’s independence from Russia in 1991 through a referendum following the break-up of the Soviet Union, Donbass became the centre of rebellion against Ukrainian centralisation.
MODI BRINGS UKRAINE INTO POLL CAMPAIGN, REPEATS CLAIM OF TERROR & SP LINK
Without mentioning the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing an election rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich Tuesday, said the world is in turmoil and that India needs to be stronger not just for itself but for the entire humanity. “Tough times need tough leaders,” he said.
Keeping his guns trained on the Samajwadi Party (SP) on the terror issue, Modi accused the previous SP govt of making attempts to withdraw cases against those involved in terror attacks in UP. The PM also charged that the SP dispensation was not in favour of prosecuting terrorists and banning terror outfits.
He again raked up the verdict of an Ahmedabad court giving capital punishment to 38 convicts in the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts case to hit out at the Opposition, especially the SP.
OPPOSITION MAY CONSIDER NITISH FOR PRESIDENT IF HE SNAPS TIES WITH NDA: NCP
The Nationalist Congress Party on Tuesday said that opposition parties may think about Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for the post of President, provided his Janata Dal-U severs ties with the ruling NDA.
Referring to some media reports that Nitish Kumar could be the Opposition’s candidate for the Presidential elections due mid-2022, NCP national spokesperson and Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik made it clear that there can be no discussion on this until he breaks all ties with the BJP.
There have been certain speculative reports claiming Nitish Kumar may part ways with the BJP after the results of the ongoing elections to five states are declared next month and he could be in the race for the post of President.
ASSEMBLY POLLS CAMPAIGN: EC FURTHER EASES COVID RESTRICTIONS
The Election Commission on Tuesday further eased Covid-induced restrictions imposed on campaigning in assembly polls by allowing road shows with prior permission of district authorities.
The commission also allowed political parties and candidates to hold meetings and rallies with the restriction of using only 50 per cent capacity of space being relaxed.
Campaigning is on for the two-phase Manipur assembly elections and phases five, six and seven of the Uttar Pradesh polls.
“The commission has also allowed road shows subject to SDMA regulations and with prior permission of district authorities,” a statement said.
SC ASKS MAHARASHTRA TO PUT ON HOLD PROBE AGAINST PARAM BIR SINGH
The Supreme Court Tuesday directed the Maharashtra Govt to put on hold the ongoing probe against former Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh over allegations of misconduct and corruption till March 9 when it will take a final call on transferring the probe to the CBI.
“We have now put down the matter for final hearing, investigation being completed can pose problems. Mr Darius Khambata, senior advocate, has assured to put their hands on hold. We take the assurance on record,” a Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said.
Expressing concern over the “messy state of affairs” in Maharashtra, the top court said this was an unfortunate scenario having “the propensity of unnecessarily shaking confidence of people in the police system”.
4 ARRESTED, DOZEN DETAINED IN KARNATAKA BAJRANG DAL ACTIVIST MURDER
Four people have been arrested while about a dozen others detained for questioning in connection with Bajrang Dal activist Harsha's murder Shivamogga, as stray incidents of arson and violence were reported on Tuesday morning.
Harsha was stabbed to death on Sunday night at Bharathi Nagar in the city allegedly by a group of men who came in a car. Police suspect the involvement of seven people in the murder.
Additional Director General of Police C Pratap Reddy, who is camping in the town, told reporters that all the accused had been identified.
Meanwhile, one of the petitioners in the hijab case in the Karnataka High Court, Hazra Shifa, has alleged that “Sangh Parivar goons” on Monday night attacked her brother and damaged her property in Udupi. In a series of tweets, she demanded that a case be filed against the attackers. According to Shifa, her 20-year-old brother - Saif - is admitted to Hitech Hospital, Udupi.
The full bench of the Karnataka High Court comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice JM Khazi and Justice Krishna S Dixit is hearing the case where Muslim girls and women are demanding that they be allowed to be wear hijab in classrooms.
The wearing of hijabs is a right that falls under freedom of expression, which is subject to institutional discipline, and not under freedom of religion in the Constitution, the Advocate General for Karnataka argued on Tuesday
BOTH ‘SAME RANK’ AND ‘SAME LENGTH OF SERVICE’ NECESSARY FOR AVAILING OF OROP BENEFITS, CENTRE TELLS SC
Under fire from the Supreme Court for its ‘hyperbole’ on ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) policy for the armed forces, the Centre has told the Supreme Court that both ‘same rank’ and ‘same length of service’ are necessary conditions for availing of OROP benefits.
In an affidavit filed in the top court, the Ministry of Defence said petitioner Indian Ex- Servicemen Movement’s contention on OROP defeated one of the core values of the OROP—which was not only same rank but with the same length of service. Maintaining that “the comparison sought to be made by the petitioners is between comparable and non-comparable and between apples and oranges,” the Centre urged the top court to dismiss the petition.
Last week, a Bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud had posed several probing questions to Additional Solicitor General N Venkataraman, representing the Centre, over OROP and sought to know how it has been implemented. “The problem is your hyperbole on the OROP policy presented a much rosier picture than what is actually given to the pensioners,” the Bench had said.
OIL NEARS $100: SHARP RISE EXPECTED IN RETAIL PRICES ARFTER POLLS ARE OVER
International oil prices surged close to USD 100 a barrel on Tuesday after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine, but petrol and diesel prices in India continue to be on freeze and are expected to rise once assembly elections in states end.
Domestic fuel prices - which are directly linked to international oil prices - have not been revised for a record 110 days in a row.
Rates are supposed to be revised on a daily basis but state-owned fuel retailers IOC, BPCL and HPCL froze rates as soon as electioneering to elect a new govt in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and three other states started.
Retail pump rates are aligned to a price of USD 82-83 per barrel and they would certainly go up once elections end next month, industry officials said.
The current 110-day hiatus is the longest since daily fuel price revision was adopted in June 2017.
WITH COVID-19 CASES ON THE WANE, COUNTRIES START RELAXING TRAVEL NORMS
With the number of cases receding, countries across the world have started relaxing restrictions on travel rules prompting hopes that there will be a recovery in global air travel this summer.
In a latest move, UAE has issued new travel guidelines for international arriving passengers from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. As per the latest guidelines, UAE has waived off Rapid RT-PCR done at Indian Airports before travelling to Dubai.
France also from relaxed rules of arrival saying that passengers who have completed full doses of vaccination will not face on arrival airport testing at the country.
Last week, Singapore signalled its intent to fully reopen the country to vaccinated foreigners by significantly relaxing entry requirements, extending its VTL (vaccinated travel lane) to more countries and tripling the number of VTL travellers allowed to enter the country.
Australia has started allowing tourists from Monday after nearly two years of sealing its borders, relying on high Covid-19 vaccination rates to live with the pandemic as infections decline.
The opening up of out bound tourism is giving hopes to travel firms whose prospects have been severely impacted by two years of lockdown.
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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Three days of uninterrupted company in a vehicle will make you better acquainted with another, than one hour's conversation with him every day for three years. - Johann Kaspar Lavater
A Kung Fu student asks teacher, "Master, why my ability does not evolve, and I'm always defeated?"
And the master patiently answers, "My dear pupil, have you seen the gulls flying by the setting sun, and their wings seem like flames?"
"Yes, my master, I have."
"And a waterfall, spilling mightly over the stones but without taking anything out of its proper place?"
"Yes, my master, I have already witnessed it."
"Then the moon .. when it touches the calm water reflecting all its enormous beauty?"
"Yes, my master, I have also observed this marvelous phenomenon."
"That is the problem. You keep watching all this instead of training."