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In a First, Russia Talks of UN Resolutions on Kashmir

World News thewire.in

Moscow's support for India in the UN came with a twist – a reference to Security Council resolutions New Delhi regards as long defunct.
'New Delhi: There was some mystery surrounding Russia’s positioning in New York in the run-up to the UN Security Council informal consultations on Kashmir. Moscow backed India but the support came with a twist – a reference to Security Council resolutions Delhi regards as long defunct. On Friday, the UNSC discussed India’s move to revoke the special constitutional status of Kashmir and bifurcate the state into two union territories. While the meeting took place behind closed doors, it was the first time that the members of UNSC conferred on “India-Pakistan question” since December 1971. The Council’s president, Joanna Wronecka of Poland, however, did not get the green light from all members to issue a public statement, much to India’s respite. China came out at the end of the meeting to convey a “general will” of the members against “unilateral actions”. But India’s envoy to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, contended that China wasn’t being honest. Multiple diplomatic sources also confirmed that the Chinese permanent representative to the UN, Zhang Jun, was not authorised on behalf of other members, and neither was his summary accurate. At the meeting itself, Russia backed India’s position, according to sources aware of the proceedings. The US and France also effectively blocked China’s attempt to get the Council president to issue a public statement. But it was the build-up to the meeting which led observers to note a wavering in Russia’s actions. Also read:  India Wants to Avoid International Intervention, But Needs to Address Human Rights in Kashmir Russia’s first deputy permanent representative Dmitry Polyanskiy told reporters before the start of the meeting that he favoured a “bilateral track”. He also posted a tweet that Russia hopes that Kashmir will be settled “bilaterally by political and diplomatic means only”. This tweet received wide play on the social media platform, especially among Indian users and media. #Russia continues to consistently promote normalisation of #India – #Pakistan ties. We hope that existing divergences around #Kasmir will be settled bilaterally by political and diplomatic means only. — Dmitry Polyanskiy (@Dpol_un) August 16, 2019 His second tweet, posted a minute later, didn’t receive as much attention – but marked a sharp variance from Russia’s traditional position on Kashmir. Polyanskiy wrote the Kashmir dispute should be in accordance with bilateral agreements as per the 1972 Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration. Then, he added “UN Charter” and “relevant UN resolutions” to the mix. This Twitter post, along with the other two on Kashmir, was retweeted by the Russian foreign ministry’s official twitter account . . on the basis of Simla Agreement of 1972 and Lahore declaration of 1999, in accordance with UN Charter, relevant UN resolutions and bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan — Dmitry Polyanskiy (@Dpol_un) August 16, 2019 After about half an hour, he tweeted that Russia was “friends and partners with both India and Pakistan” and had “ no hidden agenda ”. Indian officials were quick to note the reference to “relevant UN resolutions”, which is a stance largely only followed by Pakistan and China. The Chinese envoy, in his statement on Friday , had also mentioned that Kashmir should be resolved “in accordance with UN Charter, UN relevant resolutions and bilateral agreements”. New Delhi, of course, considers the UNSC resolutions of 1948 as redundant following the signing of the 1972 Simla Agreement that calls on both countries to settle disputes on a bilateral basis. Russia has never referred to UNSC resolutions in the context of Kashmir, as its stance has been shaped by historical close ties with India. During the 1950s, Soviet Leaders had travelled to Srinagar and Moscow had used vetoes in favour of India at Security Council. The Russian diplomat’s tweets were striking as Moscow’s previous remarks after August 5 had not indicated any imminent change in Kashmir policy. On August 9, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in answer to a media query that differences over Kashmir should be “resolved by political and diplomatic means on a bilateral basis in accordance with the provisions of the Simla Agreement of 1972 and the Lahore Declaration of 1999”. She had made no mention of UNSC resolutions. Watch:  The Geopolitical Implications of Revoking Article 370 Similarly, a Russian foreign ministry readout of the phone call between Pakistan foreign minister S.M. Qureshi and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov only stated that the two South Asian nations had no option but to resolve their divergences on a “bilateral basis by political and diplomatic means”. Again, there was no mention of UNSC resolutions – which has been the consistent Russian position, till now. When President Vladimir Putin visited New Delhi for an annual summit in December 2002, the joint statement noted that India and Pakistan should “resolve all outstanding issues in a bilateral framework as envisaged in Simla Agreement of 1972 and the Lahore Declaration of 1998″. This phrase returned in the joint statement for the 2003 bilateral summit in Russia. Therefore, the appearance of “relevant UN resolutions” in the tweet of a Russian diplomat in New York, which was also re-tweeted by the foreign ministry, has raised eyebrows. A United Nations logo and flag are seen during the UN General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York September 25, 2013. Photo: Reuters/Eric Thayer/File Photo Western diplomatic sources alleged that Russia in New York had actually supported China’s proposal for an open meeting. This was, however, steadfastly denied by Indian government officials. The Wire had learnt Russia informed India that Lavrov conveyed to Qureshi on August 14 that Moscow had opposed China’s call an open meeting of Security Council on latest developments in Kashmir. However, since China had made the request, Russia agreed to the closed door informal consultations. Around that time, Polyanskiy was asked by reporters at UN headquarters whether Russia would support having a meeting on this issue. He replied that Russia wouldn’t object “if it is a closed meeting”. To another question on why the meeting had to be closed, Polyanskiy answered, “Because we need to discuss it first of all among ourselves it has been a long-time since the SC touched upon this file so we need to compare notes and to reload this file I will see.” After the conclusion of the closed-door meeting, Indian officials named US, France and Russia as having solidly batted for India. While relations between India and Russia have remained outwardly strong, there has been a niggling perception that both sides have taken their eyes of the ball, as they became enamoured by new friends. In Moscow, the complaint was that India had grown too close to the US. In turn, India has been uncomfortable with the West’s targeting of Russia, which it believes has pushed Putin into China’s open embrace. It was the perceived drift that led to the first Informal Summit in Sochi in May 2018. This year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Russia to be the chief guest at the Eastern Economic summit in Vladivostok . Despite looming threat of US sanctions , India also signed the $5.43 deal to buy Russian S-400 missile defence system . There are also other defence purchases in the pipeline. But the defence relationship remains the most healthy aspect of India-Russia ties – in spite of efforts on bilateral trade and cooperation on regional and global issues. Also read:  South Asian Activists, Academics Condemn ‘Intensified Military Suppression’ in Kashmir The antagonism with the West, believed an Indian official, may be the reason for Russia to be not be visibly active in backing India’s priorities at United Nations, like the blacklisting of Jaish-e-Mohammed Masood Azhar , as they were promoted strongly by western P-5 nations. However, Indian officials insist that Russia had always endorsed New Delhi during the actual voting process. In India’s neighbourhood, Russia has been reaching out to Pakistan with the intention to carve out space for diplomatic manoeuvres in the Afghan peace process with the Taliban. In fact, the outreach to Pakistan had led to a rare public complaint in September 2016, after media reported that Russia would hold a bilateral military exercise in Gilgit-Baltistan. Asserting that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir was a part of India, the Indian foreign ministry spokesperson said that Indian sensitivity on this matter was well-known and “given our privileged and strategic partnership with Russia, we have rightfully conveyed our concerns to them ”. Since then, Pakistan has conducted bilateral exercises with Pakistan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, even though India would prefer none at all .'

Priyanka Gandhi attacks Centre after arrest of J&K leaders, asks Modi if India is still a democracy

World News Scroll.in

The Congress leader also took on the BJP after an advertisement of a rape-accused MLA with top party leaders was published in a Hindi newspaper.
'Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Saturday lashed out at the Centre after the arrest of the party’s Jammu and Kashmir chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir and chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma, and asked if the Bharatiya Janata Party believed if India was still a democracy. “On what grounds have Cong leaders in J&K been arrested,” Vadra wrote in a tweet. “Is it a crime to speak to the media? It’s now 15 days since ex CM’s who respected and abided by the Constitution of India just like our leaders, have been under arrest.” In another tweet she wrote: “Even their families have not been allowed to communicate with them. Does the Modi-Shah Govt believe India is still a democracy?” The Congress had condemned the police action against two senior party leaders in the state and called it “madness” and a “dictatorial move”. Even their families have not been allowed to communicate with them. Does the Modi-Shah Govt believe India is still a democracy? #StopIllegalArrestsInKashmir — Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) August 17, 2019 Mir was placed under house arrest in Jammu on Friday afternoon, while Sharma was detained for around three hours after being prevented from addressing a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Jammu. Mir is a former minister of the state, while Sharma has.. Read more'

Hockey: Gurjit Kaur’s late strike saves India from defeat against Australia in Olympic test event

World News Scroll

Gurjit who scored a brace against Japan in the opening match, struck late on in the game to salvage a draw for India.
'The Indian women’s hockey team continued its unbeaten run in the Olympic test event as Gurjit Kaur’s late equaliser held Australia to a 2-2 draw in Tokyo on Saturday. India, who opened their campaign with a 2-1 victory against Japan, had a tough start to the match. They were down early after Kaitlin Nobbs gave Australia the early lead. Australia continued to attack but goalkeeper Savita kept India in the game with a string of fine saves as they trailed by 0-1 following the end of the first half. As the third quarter began, Vandana equalised for India during the 36th minute but their joy was short lived as Australia retained their one-goal lead after Grace Stewart got on the scoresheet. However, Gurjit Kaur who scored a brace against Japan in the opening match, struck late on in the game to salvage a draw for India and keep their unbeaten run intact. .. Read more'

In charts: How reservoirs in India went from dry to overflowing – all in two weeks

World News Scroll.in

There is a reason why India is experiencing extreme precipitation.
'The Central Water Commission, a technical organisation under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, releases a bulletin on reservoir levels every week. The bulletin issued on August 1 said the water level in reservoirs across the country was 80% of normal storage – or 20% less than usual. Two weeks later, as per the bulletin released on August 14, this had jumped to 125% of normal storage. The jump in water levels is because of heavy rainfall, which in turn can be traced back to an atmospheric depression , or an area of low pressure in the air. A depression is created when the air in an area warms up. Warm air is lighter than cool air, and so it rises, leaving a vacuum in its wake. This vacuum sucks in air from the surroundings in order to fill itself. The warm air cools as it rises, until the water vapour in it condenses and comes down as rain. The monsoon rains themselves happen because of such a seasonal depression, called the monsoon trough. Last week though, the depression caused a cyclonic circulation: a swirling vortex that drew more and more moisture-laden air into itself until it all came down in a deluge. Full reservoirs On the ground, the deluge has caused severe.. Read more'

How Consultative Has India’s RCEP Strategy Really Been?

World News thewire.in

There is little doubt that the smaller stakeholders and businesses within India's informal economy have the most to lose, and yet their voices are not being heard.
'“Concluding RCEP [Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership] this year is the region’s ‘collective interest and highest priority’”, trade ministers of the proposed pact are reported to have announced after their meeting in China in early August 2019. India was interestingly not represented by trade minister Piyush Goyal, but by commerce secretary Anup Wadhawan. It has been reported that the last-minute withdrawal of Goyal’s presence in Beijing was possibly prompted by concerns raised by the Indian industry, during consultations with them, that China would wreak havoc in the domestic market with its cheap exports .  Besides being a signatory to the joint statement of RCEP trade ministers, Wadhawan later issued a statement that “India’s concerns regarding market access and other issues leading to imbalanced trade between some of the partner countries was specifically flagged during the meetings”.  However, in the bargaining between market access for foreign goods in India vis-à-vis access to Indians in professional services in foreign markets – and in the run-up towards proposed finalisation by November 2019 – the plank of democracy and due process on which these negotiations must take place is conspicuously missing.  In fact, RCEP is in the continuum of this undemocratic treaty-making, as many have noted. Legal researcher and policy analyst Shalini Bhutani, who has done extensive work on the impacts of Free Trade Agreements, points out that the practice of RCEP treaty-making negotiations continues to be at odds with the promise of the constitution, of a federal structure for governance in our polity.   Bhutani explains that there is wisdom and logic behind distributing decision-making powers across the state and local level to manage our affairs in such a vast and diverse society. In the exercise of executive power of treaty-making, be it regional treaties such as the proposed RCEP or the bilateral treaties (such as India-ASEAN), the treaty deals are struck by the Central government, or more particularly by the prime minister and the trade minister.  Also read:  Investment Protection Proposals Under RCEP Threaten India’s Pharma Industry Around the same time as the RCEP trade minister meeting in Beijing, there was a gathering of representatives of several citizens’ groups and mass organisations of farmers and trade unions – at Delhi – who, after stock-taking, reaffirmed a categoric ‘no’ to RCEP, whose very foundation – of  negotiation text intransparency – is in question for them. They say they have never been consulted, and continue not to be consulted, even as they are repeatedly knocking on the doors of various ministries. The secrecy that shrouds global free trade agreements is mind-boggling, but this has extended to other forms of treaties as well. For instance, K.V. Biju, organising secretary of Swadeshi Andolan, and national convenor of Anti-FTA Committee, filed an application under the Right to Information Act, for details of India’s arbitration proceedings. This was following London-based Vodafone conglomerate’s stated grievance about capital gains tax being levied in India for transfer of assets based in India from one foreign entity to another one operating in India. He was told that since the negotiations are on, the information could not be provided. In essence, the government has consented to subjecting disputes by investors against the host treaty country, through its bilateral treaties with the Netherlands and the UK, without even so much as a by your leave from the Indian people. There is little doubt that there needs to be more transparency surrounding the huge expenses inevitably incurred in these exclusive arbitration proceedings. Earlier, a delegation of farmers led by the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), had met the Union minister for fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying, Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, before the trade ministers’ meeting, with a memorandum seeking that agriculture and dairy be kept out of RCEP.  The minister reportedly assured them that milk imports would not be allowed and that all efforts would be made to put dairy on the negative list of the RCEP. While such dialogue is welcome, what the minister stopped short of saying is that there is no due process in place for ministries and departments to be consulted and for them in turn to consult the constituencies they are supposed to serve.  Sanjeev Kumar Balyan has assured that  all efforts would be made to put dairy on the negative list of the RCEP.  Photo: Pixabay The ICCFM has in its memorandum drawn attention to the fact that India already has a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the 16 member-ASEAN, and that after signing of FTA, India’s trade deficit with ASEAN surged from $4.98 billion in 2010-11 to $9.56 billion in 2016-17.   “Like any other FTA negotiation, the RCEP negotiations completely lack any amount of transparency. No text has been made available to the public or to the sectoral groups who would be impacted by this trade deal, like the farmers, women, labour, health groups and neither were they consulted to assess the impact. In [the] last six years of negotiations, RCEP was never discussed on the floor of Indian parliament, nor was any state government consulted. The consultations are always limited to the business communities in the member nations,” the memorandum has lamented.  What various farmer groups are effectively asking is how India can decide that it will allow easier market access for New Zealand’s dairy products – in exchange for easier movement of workers and professionals – without consulting local dairy farmers and their cooperatives.   That all such information and more would surface and be factored if prior and informed consent processes were duly built-in, into the pre – and during – negotiation processes, is the inescapable conclusion.  So is it about organising a plebiscite on each FTA? Ranja Sengupta, a senior researcher at Third World Network, says that these treaties must be ratified by the parliament after taking the opinion of legislative assemblies by due process. Bhutani concurs and adds that public consultation must be institutionalised in a well-thought-out process ex-ante and ex-post the signing of any legally binding trade agreement or investment treaty. Given that FTAs/BITs have far-reaching implications for the lives of ordinary citizens, people’s involvement and understanding must be a non-negotiable feature of the process. The RCEP is a proposed multilateral free trade agreement that ASEAN (which comprises of ten countries) and six other countries – India, China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea – have been negotiating from 2012, over 26 rounds so far, apart from ministerial and other meetings held in the interim. Sengupta points out that some of these partner countries such as Japan and Malaysia already have ratification processes in place. The Centre currently seems worried because industry, who they seriously and continuously consult, is also opposed to RCEP, which presently holds little potential for it. But Sengupta is concerned that while industry’s concerns would be duly factored in the negotiations when RCEP country heads will meet in September 2019, it could well be at the cost of the livelihood of people who eke out a meagre living in traditional sectors like agriculture. In all major industries such as fruits and vegetables and dairy, there have been no proper consultations held with farmers. Sengupta reiterates that it is important that these voices are heard. Given inequities within India itself, there is little doubt that if the RCEP does get finalised with India, the gain in terms of market access and movement of professionals will end up getting traded against the losses of the informal economy and small and medium enterprises in the domestic market. It is the latter who, without subsidies, will struggle to compete against big players, who may indulge in undercutting to push small-time service providers and cooperatives out of the market. This is why detailed studies, proper consultations and strategic negotiations are necessary to calculate and disseminate what are the actual consequences of RCEP.  With the current opaqueness and lack of consult that is encompassing India today, there is fear that anything can be traded away.  Albertina Almeida is a Goa-based lawyer and human rights activist.'